All season its seems West Jones has played from behind – and won. Friday night was no different.
West Jones overcame a poor first-half performance in the MHSAA Class 5A Girls Basketball Semifinals to beat Germantown 62-52 at the “Big House.”
“We had to settle down,” said West Jones head coach Sharon Murray. “We rushed our shots, and we were too anxious. We had to relax, have some fun and play with confidence.”
West Jones shot 22.2 percent (6-of-27) from the field in the first half and entered the locker room down 18-17. Germantown didn’t do much better, shooting 8-of-28 (28.5 percent) on the court but held leads of six points twice in the first two eight-minute periods.
The Lady Mustangs gained their first lead, 17-16, with 1:17 remaining the in half on a layup by senior Briana Carr. The lead was short lived as Germantown regained the lead, 19-18, on a last-second shot from Madison Booker before the break. Booker finished second in points for the Lady Mavericks with 13.
Murray said tough district play in the regular season played a part in how her Lady Mustangs responded, much like against Brookhaven in the third round of the playoffs under a similar start.
“It’s always great,” said Murray. “It prepares you. Being in a district with tough teams, great coaches and rivalry games helps. Sometimes you play tense, and sometimes you play to anxious like we did tonight. It prepares us for those moments.”
The difference was in the second half. West Jones improved its shooting from the floor by nearly 40 percent (62.1 percent). A sizable amount of the Lady Mustangs’ points came from fast-break layups.
“Those were big for us,” said Murray. “Anytime you can get those fast-break layups it helps build confidence, and it’s an easy shot to get. We weren’t shooting the three that well tonight, so we needed some easy buckets. We wanted to push as much as we could while taking care of the basketball.”
West Jones won both eight-minute periods to win the contest. The Soso ladies outscored Germantown, 45-34, in the second half.
Jurnee McLaurin led West Jones with 19 points, including a three-point basket – the only of the game for the Lady Mustangs – with 3:47 in the third period to tie the game 26-26. After taking the lead on the next basket, West Jones never trailed again and built as much as a 13-point lead at one point. Carr and Brikayla Gray also had double-digits with 15 and 12, respectively.
Sophomore guard Mirial Cannon led Germantown with 16 points.
“We didn’t do a good job of limiting her,” said Murray. “I don’t think we were ready for her. She had a good night, and she came to play. At this time of the year, you don’t know who’s going to step up so it might be someone you’re not prepared for.”
West Jones (29-0) now will defend its perfect season versus Olive Branch (28-4) in the Class 5A Girls title game come Friday night.
“I know they’re a good team,” Murray said of Olive Branch. “They are very well coached with some great athletes. They have a great player in No. 25, so going to be a tough battle. We must come ready to play.”