By Shawn Wansley, Jones College Sports Information
CLINTON – It’s a three-peat for the Jones College Lady Bobcats.
The 13th-ranked Lady Bobcats outscored Mississippi Gulf Coast 43-32 in the second half and posted a 68-57 decision here Friday night in the Region 23 Tournament title game in the A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
The win marked the third consecutive region crown for head coach Missy Bilderback’s team and sends them to the NJCAA Division I Tournament in Lubbock, Texas.
“The region title is really cool, but getting a chance to go compete for a national championship is great,” Bilderback said. “Our girls set that (goal) at the beginning of the year. They wanted the opportunity to go out there and they have really been working hard. I would not count this team out. They are tough and we really gutted it out tonight. At the end of the day, they find ways to win.
“I’m excited about going out to Lubbock and seeing what we can do.”
The Lady Bobcats had productive nights from several players, especially freshman guards Destiny Haymer (Holmes Country Central) and Keyara Jones (Heidelberg) and sophomore guard Breonca Ducksworth (West Jones).
Haymer led Jones, 27-2, with 20 points, including 14 points in the first half.
“Dee was great tonight,” Bilderback said. “She was really good. She’s a great player and I’m glad to see her play that way. I told her before the game that it was her night to shine and I knew it was. She has worked her tail off all year and I wanted her to have a great night and I’m glad she did.”
Keyara Jones and Kyia Weathersby (Collins) were named to the All-Region 23 Tournament team.
Keyara Jones had 16 points, including 11 in the second half.
“Keyara is just consistent,” Bilderback said. “When you need a big basket she is going to come through. She has never let us down. When you have great players, you get them the ball and let them make a play.”
Ducksworth had 14 points, including an 8-for-8 effort at the free throw line over the final 1:07 of the game. She was 8-of-10 off the line in a 78-74 win over Itawamba in the semifinals.
“Duck has been a good point guard for us,” Bilderback said. “She has done a good job of controlling the offense, getting us into stuff and controlling tempo. I’m really proud of Duck and she was really good tonight.”
Freshman forward LaMiracle Sims (Moss Point) came up huge for Jones, pulling down 18 rebounds.
The game was tied 12-12 after the first quarter and 25-25 at halftime.
Jones would take the lead for good when Haymer hit a jumper with 6:53 left in the third quarter to make it 31-29. A deep 3-pointer from Keyara Jones put the Lady Bobcats up 46-36 with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
The Lady Bobcats led 47-40 entering the final period.
A layup by Dapane White cut the lead to 51-47 with 6:21 to play.
But another Keyara Jones 3-pointer with 3:46 remaining capped a 7-0 run and gave the Lady Bobcats a 58-47 lead. MGCCC would get no closer that 64-57 with 21.3 seconds to play.
Bilderback said the wins over Itawamba and MGCCC would help the team as it looks forward to the national tournament.
“That was really good for us as far as preparation,” she said. “Gulf Coast has size (6-5, 6-1 and 6-0 along the front line) and that’s one thing we will see out there at the national tournament. We’ve seen them (MGCCC) four times.”
Breannah McCullah led MGCCC with 19 points and White added 10. The Lady Bulldogs end the year at 16-10.
Jones will now rest up for a bit before preparing for the tournament.
The Selection Show for the national tournament will air at 10 a.m. on Monday on NJCAATV.com.
Bilderback said the team could use some time off. But once they find who and when they will play, they will come back to campus and get ready to head to Lubbock.
“We need to get healthy,” she said. “We are a little banged up. We’ve got to get Maya (Jones) back healthy. They need to go home and get a bit of a break. We are going to give them a few days off and get back at it Tuesday night.”
The NJCAA Division I Tournament will be held in the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University.
Region 23 Tournament
A.E. Wood Coliseum
No. 13 Jones College 68, Mississippi Gulf Coast 57
Miss. Gulf Coast (16-10) 12 13 15 17 – 57
Jones College (27-2) 12 13 22 21 – 68
MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST (57)– Breannah McCullah 19, Daphane White 10, Kayla Simmons 8, Briana Thompson 7, Shelli Thigpen 5, Mia Goolsby 4, Azaria Howard 4.
JONES COLLEGE (68)– Destiny Haymer 20, Keyara Jones 16, Breonca Ducksworth 14, Endia Holliday 8, Kyia Weathersby 7, LaMiracle Sims 3, Maya Jones 0, Vilma Covane 0, Chyna Allen 0, Jatyjia Jones 0