By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
WESSON – Copiah-Lincoln coach Gwyn Young was relieved Wednesday night to see Itawamba leave his gym.
The determined Lady Indians gave Young’s Lady Wolves, No. 8 in the NJCAA national rankings, a fierce fight before falling, 85-76, in the semifinals of the MACJC State Tournament.
“I knew they were going to keep playing to the very end,” Young said. “We just happened to make a few plays and got a few defensive stops.”
Co-Lin (21-2) outscored ICC 20-11 in the game’s final 6 minutes, 7 seconds to move into tonight’s championship game against Jones.
ICC (17-7) tied the score at 65-65 on Jameika Hoskins’ fourth 3-pointer of the second half. The teams then traded baskets, with the Lady Wolves getting a 2-pointer from JaQuandria Williams and the Lady Indians going up one point on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Mandy Collins.
However, ICC would not connect on its next five trips, turning the ball over on three of those empty possessions.
“After we got ahead we didn’t do a good job with offensive possessions,” ICC coach Nanci Gray said. “We tried to rush things. We didn’t get an offensive pattern going.”
Kiara Etienne gave Co-Lin the lead for keeps, 72-69, on a 3-pointer from the baseline.
The Lady Wolves pushed their lead to 78-69 with 1:57 remaining on a putback by Brandi Simmons, the former Murrah standout. The 5-foot-11 Simmons scored 17 points and had 12 rebounds.
Her partner inside, 6-1 Sedreka Plummer, added 19 points.
“We let their inside stuff kill us,” Gray said. “We didn’t have a lot of combinations to stop their 1-2 punch inside. We went to our 1-2-2 press and tried to get some help.
“Co-Lin’s hard to beat. They do things so well inside and out.”
ICC was led in scoring by Hoskins with 21 points. Collins and point guard LaPrecious Naylon added 16 points apiece.
For Co-Lin, Etienne added 16 points while Williams had 12.
Both teams have qualified for next week’s Region 23 Tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton. The pairings are expected to be released Friday.
It’s there, Gray hopes her team can get another shot at the Lady Wolves.
“We’ve got to go figure out how to stop (Co-Lin’s inside play), because we hope to get a matchup with them next week in the region,” she said, then smiled.