MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Despite missing seven of her nine field goal attempts in the second half, Mississippi State signee Jayla Hemingway stepped up for Houston (Germantown, Tenn.) when it mattered most in Friday’s Class AAA semifinals.
With 36 seconds remaining in overtime against three-time defending champion Riverdale (Murfeesboro, Tenn.), she cut a four-point deficit to two with a layup. Then she stole the ball and hit the game-tying jumper to send the game to double overtime.
Houston took the lead on a Destinee Wells jumper and hung on for a thrilling 78-72 victory over Super 25 Riverdale, which beat Houston in last year’s championship game.
“I just knew at the end of the day I had to get a shot up because I knew that we were going to get offensive rebounds, so I knew that getting a shot up was as good as getting an assist basically,” said Hemingway.
“I told them at the beginning of the postseason, if the games are close we’ll win,” coach Ben Moore said. “These kids are absolute winners. They just find ways. And sometimes I just don’t know how they do it.”
Hemingway, who was named the Gatorade Tennessee player of the year Friday morning, had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lady Mustangs (30-2) had a 36-26 halftime lead but shot just 27 percent in the second half.
“I think we finally got in our heads because we were up a little bit and we were like, ‘OK we just need to kind of keep the lead and kind of get a stop,'” said Hemingway. “And we were just waiting for somebody else to make a play.”
Riverdale’s Alasia Hayes hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime. She finished with 25 points.
“We just kept the saying in our head that we’ll win if it’s close and we made big shots. Luckily my shot was on, so we had that going for us,” said Houston’s Madison Griggs, who scored 18 points and hit five 3-pointers.
Destinee Wells led Houston with 25 points. Melisa Carter scored 14 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.
Houston advances to Saturday’s championship game at 1:30 p.m. where it will face Bradley Central. A Lady Mustang win would be the first girls basketball state title in school history.
“Its senior year, so we’ve got to get one in before we leave,” said Griggs.