Natchez falls to Hattiesburg in controversial finish

Published 12:33 am Saturday, February 20, 2010

HATTIESBURG — Natchez High coach Sue Johnson asked a rhetorical question during her post-game comments Friday night, following the Lady Bulldogs’ 60-58 loss to Hattiesburg in the semifinals of the Class 6A Girls South State Tournament at Watkins Gym.

“What do you think?” Johnson said. “It looked good to me, sounded good to me. Sounded like the ball was out of her hands when (the referee’s) hand went up.”

Nevertheless, Ricarla Shotwell’s layup, which would have tied the game and sent it into overtime, was waved off and the host Lady Tigers escaped with the victory.

Hattiesburg (26-2) advanced to the championship game Saturday against Harrison Central, and also qualified for the State Tournament for the third consecutive season. Natchez finished its season 16-11.

“I felt like we were the better team,” Johnson said.

NHS had a 13-point lead late in the second quarter, but Hattiesburg used a 14-4 run to start the second half, and built a nine-point lead with 3:20 to play in the game before the Lady Bulldogs rallied.

“In the first half, the shots were falling and we played aggressive defense,” Johnson said. “In the second half, the shots weren’t falling but we were still playing some aggressive defense. We had a few opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.”

Keosha Bradley led Natchez with 17 points and Anastasia Hutchins added 16 points for the Lady Bulldogs. Gelese Lampton scored 23 points for Hattiesburg.

Despite the heartbreaking loss, Johnson was pleased with the effort her team gave in defeat.

“They played hard,” Johnson said. “I’m still proud of them. We’re going to miss our seniors.”