Minutes after the final second slipped off the scoreboard, Tatyana Lofton sighed.
“That was tough,” the Madison-Ridgeland Academy forward said. “That was a slugfest.”
Lofton’s squad threw the last punch.
In a game that saw a dozen lead changes, the Patriots clawed their way to a 48-42 victory over Presbyterian Christian School in the MAIS AAA Division I girls championship on Saturday at Jackson Academy. Both teams advance to the state tournament next weekend at East Rankin.
Anticipating a rebound off a free throw attempt are Trista Magee (left) of PCS and MRA’s Brennan Steed on Saturday during the MAIS basketball playoffs at Jackson Academy.
“It was a team win,” said Lofton, a gold medal hanging from her neck. “We all contributed, we all helped. This feels good.”
Lofton gave MRA (35-4) the lead it would never relinquish.
Lofton made a layup, was fouled while doing so and sank her free-throw attempt to give the Patriots a 42-38 lead with 2:14 left in the fourth quarter.
“There’s no doubt late free throws were the key,” MRA coach Stephen Force said. “We hit them when we needed them. I’m really proud of them. That’s not easy to do under pressure.”
And it wasn’t just Lofton, who finished with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds, who came up in the clutch from the free-throw line.
The Patriots made 16 of their 22 free-throw attempts in the second half.
“Tatyana took the ball to the basket and she finished,” Force said. “She came up big for us down the stretch. It was a very well-rounded game for us.”
PCS (26-3) was fronted — per usual — by Trista Magee.
The Dandy Dozen selection and Alabama signee chipped in a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds.
“We knew we weren’t going to be able to stop her,” Force said. “She is such a talent. She’s going to get hers. We were focused on not letting their other players hurt us.”
Beyond Magee, no other Lady Bobcats reached double digits in scoring. Erin Scoggin added 9 points for the Lady Bobcats.
“I’m most proud of our defense,” Lofton said. “We really made some big stops. We had a lot of energy defensively — especially late in the game. That, and free throws were key.”
MRA had three players reach the double-digit mark.
Joining Lofton, Amber Sutton netted a team-high 15 and Aleah Sutton contributed 11.
“What I have to preach to these girls now is that this is a terrific win,” Force said. “But this is only a piece of what we want to accomplish. We have a long way to go we have to keep working.”
Contact Riley Blevins at email@example.com. Follow @Riley_Blevins on Twitter.