GULFPORT - The No. 1 St. Martin girls basketball team held off a rally from No. 2 West Harrison in the final moments to earn a 51-50 victory Friday night.
The stars for both teams played well with coaches from Alabama, Mississippi State and Florida State in the gymnasium at West Harrison.
West Harrison's 6-foot-3 senior, Ameshya Williams, came up with a steal and raced down the court to hit a layup as time ran out in the game, but the Lady 'Canes needed a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
"I was hollering for her to take (the 3-pointer)," West Harrison coach Otis Gates said. "She's been asking to take it all year. This is the one time I'm telling her she might need to take it."
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It was senior night at West Harrison and Williams was one of five Lady 'Canes playing their final home games.
Williams led West Harrison (19-2) with 26 points and 17 rebounds, but St. Martin's early lead proved too much for the Lady 'Canes to overcome.
St. Martin senior Deona Morgan hit six crucial points in the fourth quarter to help the Lady Yellow Jackets survive the late surge by West Harrison.
Morgan finished with 12 points for St. Martin, which ends the regular season with a record of 24-2.
"I think Deona wanted this game," St. Martin coach Gina Bell said. "Deona was our spark tonight. In timeouts, she was asking her teammates if they wanted it. She worked hard."
A Morgan basket gave St. Martin a 33-21 advantage with 5:12 left in the third quarter, but the Lady 'Canes began to chip away at the lead.
West Harrison went on an 11-2 run to cut the St. Martin lead to 35-32 with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
St. Martin pushed its lead back to 49-42 with 4:00 left, but West Harrison made its final push to make the game interesting in the final moments.
Gates believes Friday night's contest will prepare his team for the Region 8-5A tournament.
"That was a playoff atmosphere all night long," he said. "I think it helps to have to scratch and claw to come back. We had to fight. We had a chance to take the lead at the end. If we make more free throws, we're in good shape."
Senior forward Savannah Jones led St. Martin with 18 points, including nine points in the first quarter.
Daphane White was impressive again in the post for St. Martin, providing 11 points.
"I think it will help Daphane playing someone as good as Ameshya," Bell said. "Hopefully she understands that we're going to meet someone that good in Jackson."