HomeSportsWorth the wait: USJ outlasts Goodpasture for championship in 3 OTs

Worth the wait: USJ outlasts Goodpasture for championship in 3 OTs

By Brandon Shields

Managing editor

The Lady Bruins and their coaches were all smiles after four quarters and three overtimes in the state championship game against Goodpasture. (GAIL BAILEY/The Jackson Post)

For the first time in school history, University School of Jackson is a state champion in basketball.

The Lady Bruins hoops team outlasted Goodpasture 70-58 in three overtimes, outscoring the Lady Cougars 14-2 in the final four-minute period.

“I could not be more proud of this team,” said head coach Joel Ayers in the postgame press conference. “They had plenty of times in this game when they could’ve packed it up and went home, but they didn’t.

“They kept pressing and pushing and playing smarter as the game went on.”

Things looked good for the Lady Bruins early on when they jumped out to a quick lead and led 16-9 at the end of the first quarter.

But the Lady Bruins had a hard time scoring in the second quarter and only managed two points in the period as Goodpasture slowly pulled back and took a one-point lead at halftime.

USJ’s shooting struggles continued in the third quarter, while Goodpasture looked at times as if it couldn’t miss a shot as off-balance efforts by different players including Brooklyn Jones and La’Zaviona Hawkins banked in.

Goodpasture led by six going into the fourth.

“Get a stop. Score. Get a stop. Score,” that was almost a chant the players in the press conference – Ellen Driver, Ava Barham, Haylen Ayers and Lilly Teague – began repeating after Ayers was asked about his message at that point in the game.

“They were either going to figure it out, or this was it, and fortunately they figured it out,” Joel Ayers said.

The Lady Bruins clawed their way back in and took a 40-39 lead with 2:02 remaining.

The teams swapped the lead for the rest of the way with having 41 at the end of regulation and again in the first overtime with the score tied at 48 to force a second extra period.

Driver was the one who had the shooting heroics to keep the game within a possession with a pair of free throws on one possession and a 3-pointer on the next.

After Goodpasture’s Hawkins let the clock run down to a few seconds – a tactic the Lady Cougars did in regulation and the first overtime as well with her lay-up not falling either of the first two times – she went to drive and Haylen Ayers was called for a foul at that point.

Hawkins hit both free shots for a 56-54 lead with 7.9 seconds remaining.

That gave Ayers time to take an in-bounds pass, get the ball up the floor, take a shot, miss, get the rebounds and put it back up for a shot before her feet hit the ground. The shot was good. USJ was still in the game for a third overtime.

Ayers opened the third overtime with a 3-pointer, and then after Goodpasture failed to score on the ensuing possession, Ayers was fouled on a lay-up and converted on the free throw to complete the three-point play and gain a six-point advantage, the largest at that point by either team in overtime.

Goodpasture hit one shot to cut the lead to 62-58, but that was the last time the Lady Cougars would score.

After Ayers hit another shot to go back up by six, Goodpasture’s 3-pointers stopped falling, and they had to start fouling.

Driver, Teague, Ayers and Sophie King went a combined 6-for-8 from the free throw line to extend the lead and secure the championship.

Ayers finished the game with 30 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals. With the exception of rebounds, she led the Lady Bruins in all categories. Barham led the team in rebounds with 17, including 11 on the offensive end. Teague finished the game with 16 points.

USJ players Haylen Ayers, Lilly Teague, Ava Barham and Ellen Driver were named to the Division II-A all-tournament team, and Ayers was named the tournament MVP. (GAIL BAILEY/The Jackson Post)

Brandon Shields,

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