By Gene Phelps
JACKSON – One statistic pretty much tells the story of Pine Grove’s 39-34 loss Thursday to Mound Bayou JFK in the MHSAA Class 1A State Tournament championship game.
Offensive rebounds. JFK pulled down 18, Pine Grove had five.
“The big thing is we didn’t get the box-outs and rebounds when we needed them,” Pine Grove first-year coach Katie Bates said. “We gave them too many second-chance options.
“A team good like that, you can’t give them multiple looks at the basket.”
Pine Grove (29-8) was looking to bring home the program’s fourth gold ball. The Lady Panthers won three state championships (1981, ’82 and ’86).
Bates, a former Pine Grove player, came home after a successful stint in Ripley that included a 3A state title in 2011.
“What do you tell a group of girls that left every single fiber of their being on that floor?” Bates said. “They’re a different group, a very special group. They don’t have the most talent, the size or the quickness. They have the work ethic, the drive, the heart bigger than anybody.”
JFK (32-0) was powered by 6-foot-1 center/forward Frederica Haywood, who scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Haywood scored on a layup with 37 seconds remaining to give the Lady Hornets a 36-34 lead. Jarvis Malone iced the win with a 3-point play that included a layup.
“We just fought hard,” JFK coach Linda Allen said of her team’s fourth-quarter rally.
JFK trailed Pine Grove 29-24 entering the final eight minutes, but battled back to tie the score twice.
The Lady Panthers’ final points came with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining on a putback by post player Aliyah Akins. The 6-foot junior scored a team-high 20 points.
“She’s beating herself up because she didn’t get boards,” Bates said. “She had a big task when (Anna) Fryar went out in foul trouble. She’s one of our biggest rebounders.”
Three of Pine Grove’s starters were in foul trouble in the half. Leslie Hopkins and Anna Dixon had two each while Fryar had three.
Point guard Hopkins had to sit. Fryar, a key rebounder, went to the bench for most of the third quarter.
“The other guards did a really good job keeping the lead,” Pine Grove coach Katie Bates said. “It didn’t really catch up with us until the end of the game. That fourth quarter, they made a big run and we just couldn’t find a way to get back.”
JFK took the lead with 32 seconds left, its first since the opening bucket of the game.