By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – India Howard finally got her chance to take the floor of the Mississippi Coliseum.
After two ACL tears in two years, Ripley High’s 5-foot-7 guard was at last able to play in a MHSAA Class 3A state semifinal.
The Ripley senior didn’t let her opportunity go to waste on Friday morning, either.
Behind her 18 points and 3 3-pointers, the Lady Tigers were able to get past Southeast Lauderdale, 73-63, in overtime and setup a rematch of last year’s 3A semifinal game with Choctaw Central in next Thursday afternoon’s state championship game.
Ripley won 71-51 last February, but this time Howard gets a shot at the Lady Warriors in Jackson.
“I was nervous at first,” said Howard, who hit a 3 during Ripley’s 9-1 run to start the overtime period, “but my coach (Katie Bates) told me to just play like it was another game.
“So, that’s what I did. I didn’t really worry about where we were at. I just tried to play my best.”
While Becca Ruckes led the Lady Tigers (27-4) with 20 points and Shunquest Howell added 14, it was Howard who tied the game at 61-apiece with 50 seconds to play.
Ruckes and Howell, however, did combine for six points during the Lady Tigers’ 12-2 run that brought them back from a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation.
“Everything that we’ve done all year long, these girls never quit,” Bates said of her team. “They practice hard all of the time. I knew they had it in them.”
Despite Pashen Thompson’s 17 first-half points for Southeast Lauderdale (25-10), Ripley held a 32-27 advantage at halftime.
The Lady Tigers led by nine, 44-35, with 3:45 to play in the third period before Southeast Lauderdale went on a 24-5 run to take a 59-49 lead with 3:11 left in the game.
Pashen Thompson (game-high 37 points) heated up at that point, scoring 14 to finish out regulation.
“Wow,” Bates said of Thompson’s game. “She’s tough. We knew we weren’t going to stop her.
“Our deal was to try to contain her. We didn’t really want her to go off and have an outstanding game, but she did that.”
However, by trapping and double-teaming her and using their press, the Lady Tigers took control of the game.