West Jones conserved its perfect record in the final minute and fourteen-seconds of Friday night’s Region 5-5A opener. Jurnee McLaurin’s put-back basket off a missed fast-break layup opportunity by Bre Carr, followed by a 4-0 run till the final buzzer kept the Lady Mustangs unbeaten on the season, and more importantly, 1-0 in 5-5A.
West Jones (16-0) bested rival South Jones (14-3), 60-56.
“We just had to work,” said West Jones girls basketball coach Sharon Murray. “We had to work a lot harder [than they did]. I told our girls [before the game] that since it was a rivalry game, it was going to be tough. South Jones is a great team. We had to go up a gear and work our butts off to keep the game within grasp.”
West Jones held a nine-point lead midway through the second period before South Jones made one last push to narrow the score. A buzzer-beating layup by senior guard Kelsi Jackson finished a 7-2 run by the Lady Braves in the closing minutes of the first half to cut the Lady Mustangs lead to three, 27-24.
The third period favored South Jones, 21-17, and ended with a go-ahead basket by senior guard and Jones College signee Jordan Clark.
Two quick scores by eighth-grade guard Jernize Gammage at the start of the final period – including a three-point basket – pushed South Jones in front, 50-44. Minutes later, West Jones made their move by outscoring the Lady Braves (14-4) in the remaining minutes to win its Region 5-5A opener and remain unbeaten.
“I saw our girls never giving up,” said Murray. “As long as we keep that mentality, we’ll be alright. This was a good game for us. It was a tough environment. I’m proud of our girls.”
South Jones senior standout Jordan Clark finished with a game-high 20 points.
Three players for West Jones finished in double-digits. Brikayla Gray and Mia Moore scored a team-high 18 points apiece, while Bre Carr netted 16.
South Jones head coach Sherri Cooley: “We were blown out by Hattiesburg in our last game. I wanted to see how girls would respond coming back from that big loss. And I was proud of what I saw tonight. They showed me that they can still play this game and we’re not going to stay down over a loss.”
West Jones head coach Sharon Murray: “This game was a confidence builder. We may not have played as well as I think we could have, but we finished well. I think this game showed our girls that though it’s going to be tough, we can do it.”
Boys Game: West Jones 65, South Jones 62.
Regardless of how they came by it, West Jones finished Friday night with a 65-62 win over South Jones in both team’s Region 5-5A opener.
“It was a typical district game,” said West Jones head coach Todd Arnold. “I was a good environment. I have to give our guys credit; we didn’t quit. But a lot of our fortune came from their (South Jones) bad fortune.”
The Mustangs’ final quarter comeback win followed an injury to South Jones’ standout and senior guard Andre Thomas.
“Thomas is such a difference maker for them,” said Arnold. “We were able to take advantage of their problems moving the ball around [towards the end].”
Thomas, who left the game in the second half to a sprained ankle, finished with 11 points.
West Jones stayed close and eventually won, on the feet and hands of several players. Three Mustangs finished in double-doubles. Tajrick Randolph led with 23 points, while Jared Naylor and Re’quan Keyes finished with 16 and 13, respectively.
“One of the good things about our team is that we have different guys who step up,” said Arnold. “If you’re going to be a good team, you can’t just have a one-trick pony. You must have multiple guys stepping up to make plays and tonight we had that.”
With fourteen seconds left to play, and slightly ahead by a point, Mustang point-guard Cedric Bender scored off a steal to push West Jones in front, 65-62. South Jones tried to counter but was unsuccessful.
“That is what Cedric does,” Arnold said. “He’s a hard-nosed guy who played safety and cornerback on the football team. He makes those scrappy kinds of plays for us all the time.”
West Jones improves to 8-9 on the season and 1-0 in Region 5-5A. South Jones falls to 3-12 overall and 0-1 in region play.