By Kedrick Storey
PINE GROVE – The theme for the Pine Grove Lady Panthers has been ‘Rise To The Occasion’ based on the biblical passage Exodus 9:16.
Now they’ll get to take that message to Jackson after extending their magical season with a trilling 47-46 overtime victory over Ashland in the Class 1A North Tournament semifinals.
Witht he victory, the Lady Panthers (28-6) punched their ticket to the Big House for the first time since 2008. They face Mound Bayou JFK for the Class 1A North championship tonight at 7.
“We’ve found ways to win all season. They just believed and found a way,” said Pine Grove coach Katie Bates, who lost three starters to fouls in the fourth and overtime. “They believe with every fiber that it’s all about Exodus 9:16.”
Pine Grove used a 11-1 run to start the fourth for a 34-24 lead with 4:52 to play. But they needed a free throw from Leslie Hopkins with seven seconds left to send the game to an extra period knotted at 42. Ashland battled back and got an Alontra Tucker 3-point play to cut the Lady Panthers lead to 39-38 with 1:05 to play in regulation. They got a putback by Darliyah Clardy for a 42-41 lead with 16 seconds to play.
Hopkins made 12 of 17 free throws in the fourth and led with 16 points, but fouled out with 2:32 to play in overtime.
Ashland took a 46-45 lead on a Tucker layup with 20.6 left. Following a Pine Grove timeout, Katelin Miller, who didn’t score her first bucket until a buzzer-beating jumper at the end of the third, drove left and sank the game-winner with 9.6 left. She scored all five of their points in the overtime,
“I can’t describe the feeling,” said Miller, who finished with 9 points. “I just drove to the basket and prayed as I shot it,”
Anna Fryar added 12 points for Pine Grove. Tucker led Ashland (28-5) with 16 points, while Dametris Anderson added 14.