CLINTON – It’s a three-peat for the Jones College Lady Bobcats.
The 13th-ranked Lady Bobcats outscored Mississippi Gulf Coast 43-32 in the second half and posted a 68-57 victory Friday night in the Region 23 Tournament title game in the A.E. Wood Coliseum at Mississippi College.
The win marked the third consecutive region crown for head coach Missy Bilderback’s team and sends them to the NJCAA Division I Tournament in Lubbock, Texas.
“The region title is really cool, but getting a chance to go compete for a national championship is great,” Bilderback said. “Our girls set that (goal) at the beginning of the year. They wanted the opportunity to go out there and they have really been working hard. I would not count this team out. They are tough and we really gutted it out tonight. At the end of the day, they find ways to win.
“I’m excited about going out to Lubbock and seeing what we can do.”
No. 9 seed Jones will begin the national tournament Monday against Three Rivers Community College (27-3), the No. 24 seed. The winner will face New Mexico Community College, the No. 8 seed, next Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Bilderback said the team could use some time off. But once they find who and when they will play, they will come back to campus and get ready to head to Lubbock.
“We need to get healthy,” she said. “We are a little banged up. We’ve got to get Maya (Jones) back healthy. They need to go home and get a bit of a break. We are going to give them a few days off and get back at it Tuesday night.”
The Lady Bobcats had productive nights from several players, especially freshman guards Destiny Haymer (Holmes Country Central) and Keyara Jones (Heidelberg) and sophomore guard Breonca Ducksworth (West Jones).
Haymer led Jones (27-2) with 20 points, including 14 points in the first half.
“Dee was great tonight,” Bilderback said. “She was really good. She’s a great player and I’m glad to see her play that way. I told her before the game that it was her night to shine and I knew it was. She has worked her tail off all year and I wanted her to have a great night and I’m glad she did.”
Jones and Kyia Weathersby (Collins) were selected to the All-Region 23 Tournament team.
Jones had 16 points, including 11 in the second half.
“Keyara is just consistent,” Bilderback said. “When you need a big basket she is going to come through. She has never let us down. When you have great players, you get them the ball and let them make a play.”
Ducksworth had 14 points, including an 8-for-8 effort at the free throw line over the final 1:07 of the game. She was 8-of-10 off the line in a 78-74 win over Itawamba in the semifinals.
“Duck has been a good point guard for us,” Bilderback said. “She has done a good job of controlling the offense, getting us into stuff and controlling tempo. I’m really proud of Duck and she was really good tonight.”
Freshman forward LaMiracle Sims (Moss Point) came up huge for JC, pulling down 18 rebounds.
The game was tied at 12 after the first quarter and at 25 at halftime.
JC took, the lead for good when Haymer hit a jumper with 6:53 left in the third quarter to make it 31-29. A deep 3-pointer from Jones put the Lady Bobcats up 46-36 with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
The Lady Bobcats led 47-40 entering the final period.