PASCAGOULA Laurel held Pascagoula scoreless for the last three minutes of the game to win 51-48 in the second round of the Mississippi Class 5A girls playoffs on Friday night.
“This is the first team going to Jackson in at least 20 years,” said Laurel coach Alphaka Moore. “It’s a great thing for the team.”
Moore, who won two state championships at Natchez, returned to Laurel (20-10) to build a championship program at her alma mater.
“It’s nothing new with me being there,” she said. “Now I want to bring one home.”
Although Pascagoula (18-13) led for most of the game, the Panthers were not able to pull away from the Tornadoes, who kept within five points throughout the game. With five minutes left, Jazz Hansbrough hit a layup to put the Laurel up 43-41.
For the next two minutes, the team battled back and forth. Alexis McBeath tied the game at 48 with a short jumper at the 3:11 mark. It was the last time Pascagoula scored.
The Panthers’ defense did not allow Laurel another field goal. The Tornadoes, though, took advantage of their charity stripe opportunities. Hansbrough, Beverly Tillman, and Mia Moore each hitting 1-of-2 free throws in the final two minutes. Moore’s free throws came with two seconds left in the game, sealing the win for the Tornadoes.
Pascagoula converted only 1-of-6 free throws, missing two front ends of a one-and-one.
“We usually shoot free throws better than that,” said Pascagoula coach Crisla Herchenhahn. “Not making the free throws late really hurt us.”
With 12 seconds left, the Panthers had the ball and a chance to win with a trey or tie with a two. Pascagoula worked the ball around to LSU signee Jailin Cherry, who took a three point shot. The shot bounced off the rim and fell into Moore’s hands.
“I thought we played well until late when we made some silly mistakes and turned the ball over,” said Herchenhahn. “Still, we had a chance to win the game and that’s what you ask for in the fourth quarter.”
Tamirra Haskin scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Tornadoes.
McBeath scored 17 to lead Pascagoula. Cherry finished her last game for the Panthers with 13 points.