NP Lady Cougars
By Myra Bean
The North Panola Lady Cougars ended an 18-year drought by bringing home the 3-3A District title Friday night.
The Lady Cougars went 3-0 in the district tournament held at Northwest Community College in Senatobia last week.
North Panola knocked off Independence Tuesday night and followed Wednesday night with an upset over highly favored Senatobia.
The last 8.6 seconds of the game against Tunica Rosa Fort Friday night seemed the longest time period of the game, but the Lady Cougars held on for the 44-40 score.
“I am very, very proud of the girls,” head coach Chris Yancy said immediately following the game, dripping from a water dunking. “I told them in pregame the only person denying them is yourself. They were hungry, finally turned it around for the program.”
Rosa Fort could have pulled within two points, but missed one of its two free throws and North Panola maintained a three point lead. A free throw by 6’2” guard Jenisha Jackson made the score a two-possession game with 6.2 seconds left. The Lady Cougars pressured the Lady Lions from making a last minute shot and time ran out.
Jackson grabbed the district trophy and ran to the end where the Cougar crowd had gathered. North Panola was the host school for the event and showed up Friday night with the band and Cougar players in painted shirts to show their support for the girls. This was again where the crowd was the sixth player, pushing the girls to continue to fight even when Rosa Fort tied the game in the third and took the lead for a little bit.
The Lady Cougars start all sophomores and use limited bench action. Yancy said people did not expect much of this young team, but they managed to put together a string of four straight wins with a regular season win over Holly Springs to end the regular season.
Even if the Lady Cougars were thought to have a chance against Independence, they were definitely the underdog going against No. 1 seeded Senatobia last Wednesday night. The same went for Rosa Fort whom the Lady Cougars had lost to twice this season.
North Panola showed confidence against Rosa Fort and did not panic while jockeying for the lead in the first quarter. Rosa Fort led 6-2 at one time. The Lady Cougars battled back to tie the game at six on a Catonya Newson field goal with 2:22 in the first quarter and take the lead on two free throws by Newson at the 1:39 mark. The game was tied at eight going into the second quarter on a Rosa Fort offensive rebound and put back with 1:03 left in the first.
Rosa Fort retook the lead 10-8 but on a free throw by Shaveeta Gordon and three-pointer by Audrey Taylor, the Lady Cougars retook the lead 12-10 with 5:36 left in the first half. It was tied again by Rosa Fort, but the Lady Cougars took control and advantage of Lady Lion turnovers to take a 16-12 lead on baskets by Newson and Brittany Patton with 3:37 left in the half.
The last Lady Lions scored was a field goal at 1:42, while the Lady Cougars took a 20-14 lead into halftime on a low post score by Jackson and two free throws by Gordon.
Flexing their muscles, the Lady Lions went on a 9-2 scoring spree to take a 23-22 lead at the 4:32 mark of the third quarter. Jackson, nick-named Shaq, flexed her own muscles to put the Lady Cougars back on top with a block, steal, offensive rebound and basket for the 24-23 lead with 3:29 left. Another lead change occurred by Rosa Fort and then Jackson tied the score on another offensive rebound and field goal with 1:58 left in the quarter. Only two other points were scored in the quarter and that by Lady Cougar Taylor who hit two free throws of a one-and-one for the 28-26 lead.
Intense anticipation would be good words to describe the atmosphere of the fourth quarter Friday night.
Rosa Fort tied the game at 30, but a three-pointer by Newson broke the tie at the 5:35 mark, 33-30. It was neck-and-neck throughout the quarter as both teams knew what was at stake. Though they were probably getting tired and Rosa Fort was already over the limit in fouls, the teams continued to pound up and down the court. The Lady Cougars did a good job of keeping the game at a two-possession margin and forcing Rosa Fort to keep fouling and sending them to the free throw line. Free throw shooting was once more a friend to the Lady Cougars instead of an enemy Friday night. The Lady Cougars were 50 percent from the free throw line in the last 3:18 of the game, making six of 12 attempts.
Scoring for the Lady Cougars were Newson, 16 points; Jackson, 15 points; Taylor, 6 points; Patton, 4 points; and Gordon, 3 points.
By the time of the publication of this article, the first game of the North State Tournament will be history. North Panola met Marks Palmer Lady Dragons last night to vie for a second round game Thursday night. The winner will take on the winner of the Houston/North Pontotoc game at 7 p.m. at either Alcorn Central or Senatobia. The venue was decided after last night’s game, but was not available by press time.