West Jones girls reach state championship game
JACKSON — While many revelers in the Deep South were celebrating Fat Tuesday, in the Big House, the West Jones Lady Mustangs were doing some dancing of their own after a 62-52 victory over Germantown in the Class 5A girls’ basketball semifinals.
The win propels West Jones (29-0) into the 5A state championship game on Friday at 6 p.m. against Olive Branch (28-4).
“I’m just so proud of the way these girls continue to fight and overcome any circumstances, just like they have done time and again this year. And they did that again tonight,” said West Jones head coach Sharon P. Murray. “And now we have one more game to play.”
The Lady Mustangs came within seconds of winning the 5A title last year before watching Hattiesburg snatch victory in the closing moments. Hattiesburg lost to Olive Branch, 78-74, in the first 5A semifinal on Tuesday.
“This is the one (state championship game) we have been waiting for, wishing for and we just have to get out there and play to win,” Murray said.
The first quarter of action between the Lady Mustangs and Lady Mavericks showcased a pair of teams that were amped up and quite a bit out of control as West Jones shot 1-of-12 from the floor and Germantown was 4-of-15 shooting as the Lady Mavs maintained an 8-6 lead after the first eight minutes.
The second quarter was a little better, but not by much.
At halftime, Germantown took an 18-17 lead into the locker room. The two teams combined to go 14-of-55 shooting in the first half with a total of 13 turnovers and 13 fouls in a messy opening 16 minutes of action.
However, the fireworks began in the third quarter and got bigger and brighter in the final quarter, especially for the Lady Mustangs.
“In the first half, we were rushing our shots and we just needed to settle down,” said Murray. “We were really anxious and just too excited at the start of the game. So at halftime, I told them they just needed to settle down and play their game.”
A Jurnee McLaurin 3-pointer (the Lady Mustangs’ only trey of the night) tied the game at 26 with 3:56 left in the third quarter. McLaurin poured in eight of her game-high 19 points in the quarter as West Jones went to the final eight minutes of play with a 34-30 lead.
Claire Applegate opened the scoring in the fourth quarter by draining a 3-pointer for the Lady Mavs to pull them back with a single point. However, West Jones’ Mia Moore scored a pair of buckets under the goal to push the Lady Mustangs’ lead to 38-33.
The Lady Mustangs went on a 7-3 run to take a 45-36 lead before Germantown called timeout with 5:24 to play.
But the night wouldn’t get much better for the Mavericks.
McLaurin got a lay-in 10 seconds after the timeout to push the West Jones’ lead to double digits. Then, a little more than a minute later, Imani Arrington scored on a fast-break layup to give the Lady Mustangs their largest lead of the night at 13 points (53-40) with 3:46 left in the game.
The Lady Mavs did not get closer than eight points the remainder of the game.
“Anytime you can get some easy layups, it just builds confidence,” said Murray. “We weren’t shooting well on our 3s, (1 of 7), or most of our jump shots, for that matter, so we needed some easy buckets and we were able to do that by pushing the ball and getting to the basket for easier shots.”
For the second game in a row, the Lady Mustangs put the game on ice by converting from the charity stripe. In the game’s final 1:36, West Jones connected on 7 of 9 free throws.
McLaurin led all scorers with 19 points, while Bri Carr scored 15, Brikayla Gray netted 12 points, Moore chipped in eight and Arrington finished with six for the Lady Mustangs.
The Lady Mustangs will look to cap a perfect season and capture the school’s second state crown in girls’ hoops (1995) against Olive Branch.
“Olive Branch is a very good team that is very well coached,” Murray said. “They have some good athletes and a really good player in No. 25 (Endya Buford), so it’s going to be a battle and we just have to come ready to play.”
The game, scheduled for 6 p.m on Friday, will air locally on WDAM Bounce 7.3 and can be streamed live for $9.95 by going to