Photo/James Pugh

One thing was abundantly clear to South Jones girls basketball coach Sherri Cooley from the onset – Laurel came ready to play. After a 2-0 opening basket, the Lady Braves never lead again in regulation, but an Ebony Fulford layup in the final seconds of the fourth period sent the contest into overtime. 

South Jones dominated the overtime period, 10-6, to pull off a 66-62 win over county and Region 5-5A rival Laurel Tuesday night in Ellisville.

“Laurel came ready to play,” said Cooley. “They had a great game plan and came after us hard. We got a little frustrated, and to be honest I don’t think we were ready to play at the beginning of the game. But our girls picked it up and didn’t quit. It was a good character win for us.”

South Jones trailed by as many as 12 in the contest, 41-29, with 1:23 left in the third period. Even with three and a half minutes left to play in regulation, the Lady Braves faced a nine-point deficit, 51-42. A 14-5 run in the final three minutes, including Fulford’s buzzer-beating layup, pushed the game into overtime. 

Free baskets were problematic for South Jones, converting just nine of 27 free throws throughout the contest. An improvement in the overtime period, making four-of-seven from the line, helped the Lady Braves come out on top. 

“We didn’t shoot well,” said Cooley, “and that’s been a problem for us lately. Now we made them down the stretch but like I told my girls if we would have made our free throws early on and we wouldn’t have been in that situation.”

Four Lady Braves finished in double-digits. Senior guard Kelsi Jackson led with 17 points. Jordan Clark finished with 16, while Ebony Fulford and Jernize Gammage added 13 and 12, respectively. Gammage also grabbed 20 rebounds on the night.

“[Having four girls in double-digits] was big for us,” said Cooley. “Kelsi and Jordan can’t do it all for us. When you play good teams, you have to have more than one or two players to do it. That will help us down the road.

‘I also have to give props to my eighth-grader, Jernize Gammage. She grabbed 20 boards tonight, and that made a difference. In our last game, West Jones out-rebounded us, 46-23. So, it’s been something we stressed. We needed to rebound the ball and control the boards, and she did an excellent job of that.”

Tuesday night’s win was big. Down late in the final period of regulation, South Jones was facing the reality of a four-game losing streak.

“We needed this win,” Cooley said. “We’ve lost three in a row, and if we lost four in a row, I don’t know how my girls would have responded. So it was good to get the win against a good team.

South Jones improves to 15-3, and 1-1 in Region 5-5A. Laurel falls to 9-7, and 1-1 also in 5-5A.

Boys Game

Laurel used a 16-point swing in the second half to beat Region 5-5A and county rival South Jones in Ellisville Tuesday night. Laurel won the contest by a score of 84-68. 

“Anytime I come home to South Jones it’s emotional and bittersweet,” said Laurel head boys basketball coach Marcus Price. Price, whose dad coached basketball on the Reservation for decades, was also a former star for the Braves. “I’ve spent more time here than anywhere else on the planet. So to come here and get a win is a great feeling.”

Neither team had an advantage at the end of the first half, as the score, 37-37, indicated. Laurel charged into action in the third quarter and started building its lead; the Tornadoes outscored South Jones, 26-17, in the period.

“We pressed them in the second half,” said Price. “From that, we were able to get some steals and turn them into points.”

A total of 13 Tornadoes scored baskets in the win, but only two finished in double-digits. Ajaveon Hatten led Laurel with 27 points, while Cameron Jones finished with 14 points. 

“We’re still trying to get our rotations down,” said Price. “We don’t have those rotations set right now because we didn’t play much over the Christmas break and having a few games canceled earlier in the season. So, we’re still figuring things out for this particular team.”

Laurel improves to 7-6 overall, and 2-0 in Region 5-5A. South Jones falls to 3-14, and 0-2 in 5-5A.