FULTON - A wild MACJC Tournament semifinal game Wednesday between Mississippi Gulf Coast and Jones County was decided at the foul line.
The Bobcats made exactly two more for the game, a game they won 95-93 in double overtime.
Gulf Coast rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, then had a chance to win it at the free throw line at the end of the first OT.
"I'm disappointed we lost the game, but I'm not disappointed in how our kids played at all," Gulf Coast coach Wendell Weathers said. "Our kids played their tails off."
Gulf Coast (19-6) will play in next week's Region 23 Tournament in Clinton. The Bulldogs are expected to be the No. 2 seed and play East Mississippi, but the bracket is not official until at least Friday.
Gulf Coast has lost four of six games by two points or less and another by four in overtime. It needs to win two games to advance to the finals and qualify for the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Jones County (17-6) will play Southwest (16-8) in the state championship game Thursday at 8 p.m.
Gulf Coast got Jones' Bruce Stevens in foul trouble early, but couldn't get their offense going to take advantage. The Bulldogs managed only 25 points in the half and trailed by 13.
"We didn't take advantage of the fact that he wasn't on the floor," Weathers said. "It's amazing to me what do form one day to the next. Jones was basically doing the same thing today that Holmes did on Monday. In the first half, I didn't think we did anything at all to run the offenses we have against that defense.
"Our kids could have quit right then. They could have quit at halftime, but they didn't. And they're not gonna quit, because their character doesn't allow them to quit. They work hard and play hard."
Stevens would finish with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Tristan Walley had 17 points and 13 boards.
The Bulldogs trailed by 16 points with 11:29 left, but slashed the deficit to 68-63 when Anfernee Hampton made two free throws with 4:01 to play.
Jones put together a 9-5 run to extend the lead to 10 with 57 seconds left. Hampton's driving bucket and a free throw with 49.5 seconds left started another surge.
The Bobcats broke the press and had the ball under Gulf Coast's basket, but a desperation play forced a turnover with 41.9 left.
Deshawn Jones made a 3-pointer on the next possession, and Maurice Stevens got a steal and layup off the press with 27.0 seconds left to make it 77-75.
Jones missed one of its free throws, and a final flurry saw Gulf Coast miss a 3-pointer but Eliel Gonzalez got the rebound, missed a shot but grabbed his own miss. He kicked it out to Hampton, who buried a 3 from the left wing at the buzzer to tie the game at 78.
Jones led by five in the first overtime before Hampton hit a 3-pointer and Tedrian Brisco got a put-back with 40.6 seconds left to tie it at 84.
After Jones stepped on the sideline with 26.7 left, Gulf Coast held for the last shot. Davion Cole-Johnson drove and got fouled with 0.7 seconds left, but missed both free throws.
"Our kids played their tails off," Weathers said. "We had chances to win the game. It was just little things."
The lead seesawed in the second overtime before the last little thing cost them. Up 91-89, Jones missed a long desperation shot as the shot clock expired.
The rebound hit the floor between four Bulldogs boxing out Bobcats, but nobody went to the ball. Walley picked it up and dunked it for Jones for a four-point lead.
Stephens hit a shot in the lane with 18.9 seconds left, and Cole-Johnson got a steal on the press and a layup with 15.3. Instead of being up by 2, though, it was tied.
Jones broke the press and got a layup with 8 seconds left.
Eliel Gonzalez missed an off-balance drive, and Stephens couldn't get the rebound up before the buzzer sounded.
Hampton's 3-point shooting in the second half kept Gulf Coast in the game. He made 5-of-10, leading all scorers with 22 points. Tedrian Brisco had 18 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Cole-Johnson had 16 points, and Gonzalez had 13.