A late foul in the final seconds left the home crowd holding their breath. They exhaled in relief as the shot fell short of its mark, and the last seconds ticked away.
Laurel defeated South Jones in girls basketball Tuesday night 64-63 as the Lady Tornadoes opened Region 5-5A play inside Laurel’s gymnasium.
"I knew it would be one of those high intensities and emotional games," said head coach Sherri Cooley. "South Jones has a great team and a great coach. I knew they would come after us hard tonight, so we were expecting that. Fortunately, it was one of those games we were able to come out on top at the end."
Senior India Singleton led Laurel with 21 points, including a pair of three’s in the second period to push the Lady Tornadoes on top after trailing 12-8 in the first.
“I had to get our girls to settle down,” said Cooley. “[in the beginning], I think they got caught up in the emotions of the game.
“India has been great for us all season. There’s no doubt in her ability to score with the ball is in her hands.”
Teammates Zoey Cooley and Beverly Tillman finished in double-digits too. Cooley had 19 points, and Tillman scored 18.
"All three never came off the floor," added Cooley. "I feel like them getting tired hurt us in the fourth quarter. We slacked up on defense, and that helped [South Jones] get back into the game."
Laurel led 50-37 with 2:10 left to play in the third period. Showing signs of exhaustion, Laurel watched its lead dwindle to two, 63-61, with just over a minute remaining. After a free throw gave Laurel a three-point lead, 64-61, Jernize Gammage pulled South Jones within one on a layup with 42 seconds remaining.
A late foul by Laurel with six seconds remaining allowed the Lady Braves a chance to tie and possibly take the lead. The one-and-one free throw attempt missed its mark as the clock ran out on a struggle for possession off the rebound.
Laurel improves to 9-8 overall and 1-0 in Region 5-5A. South Jones falls to 11-7 and 0-2 in 5-5A.