By Parrish Alford
JACKSON What began as a walk in the park for Hatley almost ended as a mugging. Almost.
Bay Springs wiped away a 16-point halftime deficit but couldn’t close the deal, as the Lady Tigers stayed alive in the girls Class 2A State Tournament with a 64-59 win.
Bay Springs trailed 61-59 when the Lady Bulldogs rebounded a missed free throw and called timeout with six seconds remaining. That’s not a bad strategy when you have a timeout to call, but the Lady Bulldogs didn’t.
Hatley’s Jamie Stevenson hit one of two free throws off the technical foul, and sophomore Tasha Foster hit two more with four seconds left to secure the win.
In its first state tournament appearance since 1992, Hatley (30-4) moves into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. semifinal game with Choctaw Central (31-1).
“These officials are supposed to tell you how many timeouts you have,” said Bay Springs coach R.E. Lopez, whose team finished 21-12. “That’s their responsibility, but they don’t want to walk over here and do that.”
The late-game excitement seemed a long way off in the first half when Hatley ran out to a 37-21 lead at the break. The Lady Tigers’ pressure forced nine first-quarter turnovers, and Bay Springs kept hacking away at Hatley’s Heather Faulkner, who went to the line 12 times in the first half. She hit eight, and Hatley as a team was 10-of-16 from the line in the half.
Faulkner had 18 of her game-high 32 points in the first half. Stevenson had 11 first-half points, nine on three 3-pointers. She finished with 12 points.
“They were coming out on me, and I tried to beat my man one-on-one in the first half,” said Faulkner, who continues to nurse a sore ankle. “In the second half they played much tighter.”
Hatley’s stroll became more dangerous in the second half. The Lady Bulldogs figured out the press and settled their nerves.
“They were beating our press so easily,” Hatley coach Mickey Miller said. “We tried to pack it in defensively, but they were getting inside.”
“We just calmed down,” Lopez said. “We got over a bad start and got ourselves together.”
Sophomore Diandra Hosey did most of the inside damage with 26 points. Sister Melissa Hosey added 22.
Diandra Hosey scored off an in-bounds play with 4:26 left to tie the game at 49-49. But Faulkner took it to her on Hatley’s next possession, sending her to the bench with her fifth foul. Faulkner got the bucket and free throw, and Hatley led 52-49.
The Lady Tigers had a 60-55 lead with 30 seconds to play, but Bay Springs’ Dorie Thigpen hit a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc, and Hatley wasn’t out of the park yet.
“We seemed to get away from what we were doing in the second half,” Miller said. “But they had a lot to do with that. They were playing good defense. You have to give them credit.”