West takes South State title

By Staff
FULL FORCE West Lauderdale's J.J. Huggins (4) charges past Heidelberg's Princess Bender (3). West Lauderdale took the Class 3A South State Championship with a 69-64 win.Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Austin Bishop/EMG regional sports director
Feb. 24, 2002
Round four goes to West Lauderdale, but round five may be yet to come.
The host Lady Knights of West Lauderdale held off a ferocious rally by the Heidelberg High School Lady Oilers to take a 67-62 win in the finals of the Class 3A Girls South State Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
The win for WL was the third in four meetings with Heidelberg and avenges a loss in the District 5-3A Tournament finals in Heidelberg last week.
West Lauderdale goes into the State Tournament, which opens at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson on Monday, as the No. 1 seed from the North and will not play until Monday, March 4 at 6 p.m. West's opponent will be the winner of next week's Greene County-Ripley contest.
Heidelberg is set to face New Albany at 1 p.m. on Thursday. The two could possibly meet in the Class 3A State Finals in two weeks.
While WL head coach Jody Hurst was unhappy with the way his team handled the ball on Friday night in a semifinal win over Greene County, Saturday's efforts were an improvement in his eyes.
The Lady Oilers took a 42-37 lead on a basket by Princess Bender with 6:02 to go in the third quarter, but the Lady Knights erupted for 11 unanswered points to go up 48-42 on a bucket by Patty Monroe with 2:51 left in the third.
But Heidelberg, wouldn't go away, cutting the lead to 50-47 at the end of the third quarter and eventually getting it to 54-53 with just over five minutes to play in the game.
After a bucket by Monroe and a free throw by J.J. Huggins made it 57-53, JaWanda Huggins scored on a short-banker off a nice feed from Cierra Jennings to put the winners up by six.
After a three-pointer by Heidelberg's Jessica Yates who finished with 23 points cut it to three, Huggins scored two quick baskets to put the winners up by seven.
The game was a wild one from the beginning. The Lady Oilers jumped out to an 18-9 lead, only to have West Lauderdale score nine straight points to tie the game. The first-quarter score was 20-20.
The teams swapped the lead six times in the second quarter with Heidelberg going up 36-35 after two quarters of play thanks to a free throw by Catina Fowler with 21 seconds left in the half.
While Hosey-Jones was hoping her team could beat WL for the second straight time, she said the Lady Oilers still played well.
Hurst said his plan for next week was a simple one.
While Hurst said it was a disappointment that his club didn't win district, he said that winning on Saturday helped make up for that.
J.J. Huggins led 32-4 West Lauderdale with 21 points, while Monroe scored 15, Kristina Gardner hit for 13 and JaWanda Huggins scored 12.
Fowler and Bender had 13 points each for the Lady Oilers.
In the third-place game, Greene County broke open a close game late to down Hazlehurst 77-68.

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