By Gene Phelps
OXFORD – Zakiyyah McMorris knew a huge defensive stop in the final seconds could help her Shannon Lady Red Raiders come one step closer to their goal – a trip to the state tournament.
McMorris, a senior guard, made that crucial play with 6 seconds remaining Monday – a steal and layup – to clinch Shannon’s 61-56 victory against Lafayette in the first round of the MHSAA Class 4A North Mississippi Tournament.
The Raiders (21-7) advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“I was waiting for (Lafayette’s player) to put the ball in my face,” McMorris said. “When she did, I wanted to take it and go with it … and not foul.”
It was a hard-fought win for Shannon, which led by 11 points at halftime, 34-23, only to see the Lady Commodores sail to a 45-41 lead with a 22-7 third quarter.
Janae Westbrook, who led all scorers with 21 points, scored eight of those in the third quarter for Lafayette (16-9).
“That was awful,” a relieved Shannon coach Warren Jennings said of his team’s third quarter. “Coming out at the half, I told my team they would make a run. We had breakdowns and Lafayette did a good job making that run.
“It put the pressure on us. Our girls stepped up and played hard.”
Shannon entered the final quarter with starter Quin Agnew on the bench in foul trouble. Jennings turned to freshman forward Jemiyah Smith, who responded by scoring eight consecutive points to keep the Lady Raiders within striking distance.
“We’ve been working with her all season; she has great potential,” Jennings said. “I told her to be aggressive and not play soft.
“She stepped up at a time we needed her to.”
The score was tied four times in the final quarter, the last time at 54-all. Alexandrea Metcalf, who led Shannon with 19 points, scored on a 3-point play to put the Lady Raiders ahead to stay.
Shaniyah Metcalf, Lafayette’s talented freshman point guard, added 19 points.
“Down the stretch they made the big plays,” Lafayette coach Amy Sutton said.