GIRLS: Jonesboro-Hodge 53, Sterlington 45
Outscoring Sterlington 23-8 in the fourth quarter, Jonesboro-Hodge rallied for a 53-45 victory over the Lady Panthers in the regular season finale for both teams. Originally scheduled for Jan. 15, the game was rescheduled for Tuesday at the Panthers' Den due to an ice storm.
With the victory, Jonesboro-Hodge (22-3, 9-1) clinched a share of the District 2-2A title with Homer (20-7, 9-1). The two schools will play off the tie Wednesday at Ruston High.
Sterlington (13-14, 3-7), meanwhile, awaits the release of the playoff brackets on Thursday. Entering the week at No. 22 in the power rankings, the Lady Panthers will be on the road for the first round.
Playing without starting guard LaTasha English (concussion) in Tuesday's game, the Lady Panthers battled gamely against the taller and deeper Lady Tigers.
Trailing the entire first half, the heavily-favored Lady Tigers did not acquire their first lead until midway through the third quarter.
Down 25-21, J-Hodge reeled off seven unanswered points. Breanna Wayne's rebound bucket, a Jakita Sampson free throw, and transition layups by Kierra Belton and Sampson put J-Hodge up 28-25.
Undaunted, the Lady Panthers closed out the quarter with a 9-2 run.
Kiera Henderson slipped behind the J-Hodge press for a layup and Kanesha Carr set up Kameron Owens underneath as Sterlington regained the lead, 29-28. Owens' three-point play and Alayah Mitchell's 3-point goal stretched the margin to 35-28.
J-Hodge's Kierra Cottonham and Mitchell traded buckets to end the third quarter as the Lady Panthers matched their biggest lead of the game at seven, 37-30.
However, the fourth quarter belonged to the Lady Tigers.
Quickly reversing the momentum, J-Hodge embarked on a 12-0 spree to start the fourth quarter.
Sampson buried a 3-pointer from the right wing and Makala Goree sank the back end of a two-shot foul to bring the Lady Tigers within 37-34. Firing a pass between two Sterlington defenders, J-Hodge point guard Paris Robinson set up Belton for an easy deuce underneath to close the gap to one.
Moments later, Belton scored off of a spin move to put the visitors ahead to say. Picking up a loose ball on the defensive end, Robinson went coast-to-coast for a layup. On the Lady Tigers' next possession, Goree took a bounce pass from Belton on the indbounds pass underneath the bucket for chip shot, giving J-Hodge a 42-37 lead with 5:16 to play.
Mitchell's layup trimmed the deficit to three, 42-39, but it was as close as the Lady Panthers would get.
Cottonham's long trey from the right wing bolstered the margin to 45-39.
Sterlington clawed within four on three occasions, the final time on Jasmyn's Washington's driving layup at the two minute mark.
Cottonham's bucket from the right corner with 1:18 remaining and Sampson's breakaway in the waning seconds sealed the outcome.
Mitchell scored 13 of her game-high 22 points in the first quarter as Sterlington built a 16-10 first quarter lead. Despite playing the final 6:50 of the second quarter without Mitchell, who picked up her third foul, the Lady Panthers maintained the lead, 23-21, at halftime.
Sampson led the Lady Tigers' balanced attack with nine points. Belton, who scored six points in the fourth quarter, and Mahalia Jackson added eight apiece.
Mitchell was the game's lone double figures scorer.
Jonesboro-Hodge 10 11 9 23— 53
Sterlington 16 7 14 8— 45
JONESBORO-HODGE (22-3, 9-1) — Jakita Sampson 9, Kierra Belton 8, Mahalia Jackson 8, Paris Robinson 7, Breanna Wayne 7, Kierra Cottonham 7, Makala Goree 5, Deja Gore 2.
STERLINGTON (13-14, 3-7) — Alayah Mitchell 22, Jasmyne Washington 7, Kameron Owens 7, Kanesha Carr 3, Meshana English 2, Crystal Brown 2, Kiera Henderson 2.
Three-point goals — J-Hodge 2 (Robinson, Cottonham), Sterlington 3 (Mitchell). Total fouls — J-Hodge 18, Sterlington 13. Free throw shooting — J-Hodge 6-15, Sterlington 6-16. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.