Lady Tigers advance to the 5A State ChampionshipBy CAMAL PETRO,
JACKSON – Senior Terralyn Ulmer handles the ball, sophomore Melyia Grayson dominates the paint, sophomore Chelsea Ulmer is back from injury and junior Kenedi Walker and sophomore Chaise Stinson provide much-needed scoring options.
Combine all of that, and it’s the formula for a state championship-caliber team.
The season isn’t over yet, though, and the Hattiesburg Lady Tigers will look to cement their place in the record books Friday at 6 p.m., as they’ll take on the winner of West Jones-Ridgeland in the 5A State Championship at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“It feels good,” Hattiesburg coach Caronica Jackson said. “This will be our third time being there and I hope we get the job done. The girls are playing well and I just hope we can take it in the next game Friday.”
This is Hattiesburg’s third trip to the state title game in the school’s history, losing to Forest Hill in 2012 and Murrah in 2009. Both losses were by a single possession.
After an even first quarter Tuesday, Hattiesburg used strong defense and post play from Grayson and Stinson to pull away from the Lafayette Lady Commodores 56-42 in the 5A Semifinals. The teams were tied at 12 after the first eight minutes, but the Lady Tigers outscored the Lady ‘Dores in each of the final three frames to maintain the lead.
Hattiesburg’s quick 6-0 run to open up the second quarter made a huge difference in the game, because the Lady ‘Dores never got back to within a point of the Lady Tigers the rest of the way.
“It was extremely big because we’ve had a tendency of coming out and starting quarters slow,” Jackson said. “Of course, we’ve talked about that. Our big thing was make sure we stepped up the pressure this time because of their two good ball-handlers, and I think my girls did a really good job of stepping up the defensive pressure.”
After a 19-point performance in the quarterfinals, Grayson was more efficient from the floor to score a game-high 18 points Tuesday against Lafayette. She also pulled down 11 rebounds to complete the double-double. Stinson was second on the team with nine points, and she recorded a game-high 12 rebounds, too.
“We have our advantage with our size on the inside with Melyia and Chaise,” Jackson said. “They’ve been a good tandem for us working the high-low, and we hope it continues to work for us.”
Stinson nearly doubled her season averages in points and rebounds. She’s only grabbed more than 12 rebounds twice this season, and she’s scored more than nine points in seven of the 32 games this season, so Jackson was pleased with her efforts Tuesday.
The most telling statistic for Stinson was her six offensive rebounds.
“That was one of the things we emphasized,” Jackson said. “Lafayette was a very good rebounding team, so the last couple of days we’ve really emphasized rebounding and it really did a good job for us today.”
Chelsea Ulmer played her second game since coming back from an injury that held her out for a month. She played 11 minutes in the quarterfinal win last Thursday before playing 13 minutes Tuesday. She scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting.
That’s a welcoming sight for Jackson heading into the 5A State Championship Friday.
“It definitely is,” she said. “She’s one of our extra ball-handlers and it takes a little pressure off of Terralyn up there. It lets her get a little rest off the ball, so it’s definitely helped having Chelsea back.”