Jefferson County girls fall apart in fourth, lose 52-48
Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 6, 2016
JACKSON — In a game that featured a number of key runs throughout, it was the final one that proved to be the difference.
Independence High School scored the final 15 points to come from behind and top Jefferson County High School 52-48 Saturday in MHSAA Class 3A girls quarterfinal action at Jackson State University.
“We didn’t finish the ball game, and we didn’t make our free throws,” Jefferson County coach Flora McKnight said. “We turned the ball over, and we made simple mistakes. You have to make free throws down the stretch, and if you don’t make them, the clock is not running and that allows the other team the opportunity to catch up, and that’s what happened.”
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Jefferson County connected on just 8-of-18 attempts at the free-throw line, while Independence made 15 of its 22 attempts. The Lady Tigers also committed 14 turnovers.
“We beat ourselves,” McKnight said. “Not to take away from Independence, but we didn’t do what we came (to Jackson) to do. We missed free throws and made some bad decisions … The game was decided at the free throw line, and free throws win ball games.”
Jefferson County’s Diamond Smith made a statement play with a layup and block on the other end of the court at the 2:55 mark in the fourth quarter that gave her team a 48-39 lead. The Lady Tigers then went scoreless for the rest of the game.
Independence imposed its will on Jefferson County from that point with what amounted to an overwhelming run to end the game and clinch a spot in the Class 3A semifinals against Booneville Wednesday.
The first quarter was a low-scoring, defensive effort for both teams ending tied 10-10. Independence went on a 7-1 spurt to start the second quarter, but Jefferson County responded with less than three minutes to go. Kailyn Hammett drained a 3-pointer, and followed the next possession with an assist to Antrell Gales, who drew a foul and converted a 3-point play.
Jefferson went into the locker room at halftime trailing 24-20.
The Lady Tigers took over in the third quarter, out scoring Independence 20-6 to take a 41-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We started to do what we do best — we ran,” McKnight said. “We ran our fastbreak, but in the fourth quarter, we got tired legs. When you have tired legs, that’s when you miss at the free throw line.”
Smith’s bucket at the 2:55 mark was the final time a Lady Tiger would add to the scoreboard. Independence’s Darquazha McClatchey went to the free throw line with 3.7 seconds left and hit two free throws that gave Independence a four-point lead.
Seniors Rakeijah Williams and Smith started their final games for Jefferson County Saturday. Williams had three rebounds and three assists. Smith had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“I have to continue to work and get ready for the (Mississippi-Alabama) All-Star game (on March 16),” Smith said.
Some core players of Jefferson County’s squad will return next season. Hammett and Gales posted 12 and 19 points, respectively, and they will begin their junior seasons later this year. Jar’qualya Doss added four points as she looks forward to her senior season. Walton said there are plenty of reasons for the Lady Tigers to remain optimistic moving forward, once they assess their shortcomings in the offseason.
“We had a great run,” McKnight said. “I don’t want to take away anything from the kids and what the accomplished; we did some great things. But we have to learn from the mistakes. We’re losing some players that are hard to replace, but the girls I have coming are going to work hard and try to replace them. But we’re still going to miss them.”