Daily Journal Reports
Rachel Jones of H.W. Byers is indeed one of the best high school players in Mississippi, but Raymond's Valencia McFarland proved on Friday why she's considered the state's best.
After being held in check for much of Friday's MHSAA Grand Slam Championship semifinal game in Jackson, McFarland scored seven points in the final period and hit a 3-pointer to give her a team a 56-53 lead with 1.8 seconds left in the game.
"It was an isolation," said Byers head coach Jason Thompson, whose team finished it season at 35-5. "She made a courageous, Hail Mary, lucky 3 that went in.
"She shot the ball deep. She was so close that you couldn't put a piece of paper between her foot and the (side) line.
"We didn't want her to get the ball. She ended up making us pay."
But if it wasn't for teammate Janairrika Bland, whose 3-pointer with 13 seconds left tied the game at 53, then McFarland would not have delivered her team to today's championship game against 5A champ Murrah.
Raymond's 5-foot-5 junior point guard had just seven points by halftime. McFarland, who committed to Ole Miss in October, would score five points in the third quarter before finishing with a game-high 19, which is just below her average of 20.4 points per game this season.
Thompson said his team went cold with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and a double teaming of his best ball-handler spelled trouble for the Lady Lions.
"They assumed we were holding the ball," Thompson said. "We were just basically trying to be patient - be organized and methodical with setting up our shots.
"They double teamed Rachel (Jones) and took the ball out of her hands.
"There were just things that we did that were uncharacteristic (of us).
"It kind of put us in a bad position to try to hold on.
"It's too bad we played 15 and a half minutes."
Freshman Alexis Hardaway led the Lady Lions with 16 points, while grabbing five boards and registering three steals.
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