Lady Tigers win quarterfinal rematch over Neshoba CentralBy CAMAL PETRO,
JACKSON – The Hattiesburg Lady Tigers are a year older than 2017’s season-ending quarterfinal loss to Neshoba Central, and the growth was evident Friday morning inside Jackson State’s Lee Williams Athletic Assembly Center when the two squared off again in the 5A Quarterfinals.
In the rematch, Hattiesburg took down the Lady Rockets 48-38 behind senior leadership of Terralyn Ulmer and the presence of sophomore center Melyia Grayson.
“It’s always a good feeling to get a win in Jackson, especially when you get a rematch against the team that put you out last year,” Hattiesburg coach Caronica Jackson said. “That made it a little bit more sweet.”
The Hattiesburg girls returned everybody to the court from a season ago, so a trip to the 5A Quarterfinals was expected. The stage wasn’t too big the young Lady Tigers either because the sophomores have the experience from last season while the trip to Jackson has been an every year occurrence for the seniors and juniors.
“Just another year of experience,” Jackson said. “They got to come up here and play last year, so it took a little bit of the butterflies away. Like I tell them, ‘Hey, it’s just another game you have to win,’ and they came in and did what we had to do and executed our game plan.”
Ulmer was second on the team with 12 points and she dished out a team-high four assists. Trailing early in the first quarter, she scored six first-quarter points to put the Lady Tigers up 12-6 by the end of the opening frame. She even hit a 3-pointer as time expired.
“She’s carrying the load of handling that ball,” Jackson said. “It got a little hectic for a little while, but she took the challenge. As the senior, she’s the one who has to take the brunt of taking care of the ball under pressure, because my sophomores and juniors, they aren’t quite there on the ball handling. They don’t mind shooting, but it’s another ball game when you have two or three people coming at you for the ball.”
While Ulmer handled the pressure the Lady Rockets were putting on, and they forced quite a few turnovers that led to a slight comeback in the second half, the game plan was always to feed Grayson down low. After all, she had the height advantage.
“That’s what I emphasize to our kids. We had the size advantage and we wanted to make sure we pounded it in early,” Jackson said. “It took her a little while to get going, but we kept getting it to her and it ended up paying off.”
Grayson finished with a game-high 19 points on 9-of-19 shooting with 11 rebounds. Her growth from this time last season to now has been a major reason why the Lady Tigers are in the 5A Semifinals.
“I think I did well, but I could have done better,” Grayson said.
The Lady Tigers will play Lafayette Tuesday at 4 p.m. for a chance to earn a trip to the 5A State Championship. The 5A Semifinal contest will be played at the Mississippi Coliseum. The last time the Lady Tigers advanced this far was the 2015-16 season when they lost to West Harrison in the semifinals.
If Friday was any gage of where Jackson’s team is at mentally, that’s a good sign heading into Tuesday night.
“They were pretty relaxed,” Jackson said. “Like I said, we’ve been here. Last year, the experience helped.”