By Kedrick Storey
PINE GROVE – The Pine Grove girls found themselves in another thriller, but this time they came up on the short end.
A night after punching their ticket to Jackson with an overtime win over Ashland, the Lady Panthers took the undefeated Kennedy Lady Hornets to double overtime before falling 45-40 Class 1A North championship game.
Even in defeat, Pine Grove coach Katie Bates said she couldn’t be more pleased with her squad.
“We missed an opportunity to beat a phenomenal basketball team. We were undersized and over-matched with their height and athleticism but I’m not disappointed,” said Bates. “When you can keep it close with a team like that, there is nothing you can be disappointed with. I’m probably as proud of them as if we had won because the game plan was executed.”
Pine Grove (28-7) sprinted to a 9-0 lead and had a 17-10 advantage after one quarter on a 3-point basket by Anna Dixon. It led the 24-18 at the break and a majority of the game until Kennedy (30-0) got an Aleghsa Haywood jumper to go up 31-30 with 6:20 to play in the fourth.
The two teams traded baskets and free throws the rest of regulation. Pine Grove’s Aliyah Akins tied the game at 35 with 1:05 to play. A last second shot by the Lady Panthers fell short.
Each teams scored just one bucket in the first overtime and Pine Grove failed to get a shot off with seven seconds left. Kennedy leading scorer Frederica Haywood scored seven of her game-high 18 in the second overtime.
Akins and Anna Fryar scored each scored 11 for Pine Grove, who will play Hinds AHS in the MHSAA Class 1A state semifinal on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“I take my hat off to the coaching staff of Pine Grove and their players,” said Kennedy coach Linda Allen. “We haven’t had anyone take us to overtime all season. They were die-hard athletes and they didn’t want to lose.”