Late scoring surge dooms Lady Cougars

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By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

CLINTON – South Pontotoc’s defense, led by its keeper Breauna Holley, held Sacred Heart’s aggressive offensive attack scoreless for 60 minutes on Saturday morning.

Then came the inevitable.

Sacred Heart freshman forward Mary Margaret Parker, with an assist from Lillian Rowell, slipped a shot past Holley in the 60th minute to give the Lady Crusaders a 1-0 lead in an eventual 3-0 victory in the Class 1A/2A/3A soccer state championship game at Clinton High School.

“I tried my best to stop that ball,” said Holley, a junior, who was one-on-one against Parker. “They were fast and they attack quick.”

Holley was easily the busiest player on the artificial turf at Arrow Stadium. She absorbed 25 shots from Sacred Heart’s relentless offensive charges, 15 in the second half.

“I thought she did a great job,” South Pontotoc coach Horace Kitchens said. “She has to cover an area 24 feet wide and 10 feet high. She stayed in there and never gave up.”

The Lady Crusaders were beginning to wonder if they would find the net.

“We knew we needed to get that one goal,” Sacred Heart senior forward Blythe Griffin said. “That goal boosted our confidence. After that, it was on.”

Sacred Heart added goals in the 61st and 69th minute on shots by Gabrielle Craig and Griffin. Rowell had the assist on Craig’s goal while Parker assisted on Griffin’s.

Dam finally breaks

“You get a lot of momentum when you get a goal (in a 0-0 game),” Kitchens said. “We let them come in too close. We got tired and started backing up.

“It was a matter of time until the dam broke … and it did.”

South Pontotoc’s offense took five shots in the first half, but only one – by Mattie Mills – in the second half.

The state championship was the third straight for Sacred Heart (15-5-3) and its second straight win against the Lady Cougars (18-3-2) in the title game.

Kitchens plans to bring his team back for a third attempt in 2015.

“That’s our goal,” he said. “We want to play a tougher schedule next year. I’m proud of my girls. We had a good year. I’ll take 18-3 anytime.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com