It was three weeks earlier when West Jones’ perfect record was in jeopardy in the final minutes at rival South Jones.
That was the case again Friday night in Soso. And just like last time, the Lady Mustangs rallied late to pull out a four-point win, 54-50, to remain perfect and break the Lady Braves’ hearts.
Five Lady Mustangs scored in double figures, but defense was the difference, coach Sharon Murray said.
“We went through some spells where we couldn’t make a shot,” she said, but “our defense made for some easy layups off of steals.”
The Lady Braves (17-6, 3-3 region) went up 50-45 on a pair of Kelsi Jackson free throws with about three minutes remaining, but West Jones (21-0, 5-0) held them scoreless after that and closed the game on a 9-0 run.
Bri Carr and Mia Moore scored 12 each while Jurnee McLaurin, Brikayla Gray and Imani Arrington all chipped in 10 in the win. Gray had 11 rebounds and three steals while Carr had six assists and three steals.
Jackson led all scorers with 24 and eighth-grader Jernize Gammage had 14 for the Lady Braves. Each had six rebounds.
McLaurin and Gray had steals down the stretch that led to points and Gray’s putback tied it at 50 with about 1:30 remaining. McLaurin got another steal under the SJ basket, fell to her knees and kept dribbling before the passing the ball for what led to a basket by Arrington and a 52-50 lead with 53 seconds left.
Carr made a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left to seal the win.
“It was a thriller,” Murray said. “It’s what you need to get prepared for the next level.”
Since their 60-56 win in Ellisville on Jan. 4, the Lady Mustangs beat their next four opponents by an average of 25 points. So some tough tests to get ready for the postseason were needed, Murray agreed.
“It was a physical game,” she said. “They came at us hard and challenged us.”
Murray said that SJ coach Sherri Cooley did a good job and “we couldn’t contain Kelsi” when the Lady Braves were making their run in the third quarter. Jones College signee Jordan Clark made a pair of key 3-pointers to give the South its first lead, just before the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Lady Mustangs led 33-28 at the half, but South outscored them 12-6 in the third to take a 40-39 lead into the fourth. WJ made 16 of 22 free throws and South went 6-of-8 from the line.
(B) South Jones 54
West Jones 47
The Braves (4-18, 1-5) picked up their first region win of the season on their biggest rival’s home floor to avenge a three-point heartbreaker to the Mustangs (8-14, 1-4) in Ellisville three weeks earlier.
Jordan Miller led the winners with 12 points. Andre Thomas and Jackson Delk each chipped in 11 and Quadarian Page had 10.
For West, Jared Naylor had 11 points and Cedric Bender finished with 10.
Winning by seven points gives the Braves the upper hand in seeding in the upcoming region tournament.
West Jones will be at Harrison Central tonight (Tuesday) and host Laurel in the regular-season region finale on Friday.
SJ’s region schedule has concluded, but the Braveswill be at Brookhaven on Friday and Stone on Feb. 5, then host Oak Grove on Feb. 7 in the regular-season finale. The girls’ games tip off at 6 p.m. and the boys follow at 7:30.
(B) Laurel 64
Wayne County 55
The Tornadoes (12-6, 5-0) outscored the War Eagles 42-35 in the second half to notch their eighth consecutive win and lock up the region title. Wayne County (14-10, 4-2) is second in Region 5-5A.
The Tornadoes will be at West Jones on Friday night.
(G) Laurel 48
Wayne County 43
The Lady Naders (10-9, 2-3) beat the region cellar-dweller Lady War Eagles (10-12, 1-5) on Friday night. They face first-place West Jones (21-0, 5-0) in Soso on Friday night for the regular-season region finale.