HED:Bender's second half not enough
By D.E. Wheeler
JACKSON Jamie Bender had an impressive second half, scoring 24 points. The Baldwyn Lady Bearcats made an impressive comeback against a team that had won 64 of its last 69 games.
It was not enough against defending Class 2A state champion Choctaw Central.
The Lady Warriors withstood a determined second-half rally by the Lady Bearcats Friday night at the Mississippi Coliseum, winning 52-50 and adavancing to the 2A championship game.
"We told them they were going to press us from the start, and their press hurt us," Baldwyn coach Mike Cartwright said. "Our girls hustled, they gave me everything they had.
"They never gave up."
Trailing by as much as 10 points 37-27 with two minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter Baldwyn kept hanging around and chipping away at the Choctaw Central lead. With Bender scoring four of her 12 third-period points and Jan Richarson adding a 3-pointer, Baldwyn (32-7) managed to cut the lead to 39-34 by the end of the quarter.
Givinia Warren ripped a 3-pointer to open the final period and cut the margin to 39-37. Then Bender took over the scoring for Baldwyn.
The 5-9 senior got three layups and added four free throws in a five-minute span to keep Baldwyn in the game at 49-47, the last free throws with 47 seconds to play. After two free throws by Robin Isaac, Bender added a little turnaround shot from the post with 23 seconds left to keep Baldwyn trailing by two, 51-49.
"The first half, I thought she didn't have a good game," Cartwright said. "At halftime, I told them I thought she could score if we got it to her.
"We started going to her, and every time she got it, she scored. That seemed to pick her up, and it picked the team up."
A Baldwyn foul sent Isaac to the line again with 16 seconds left, and the Lady Warrior junior missed both attempts. The ball bounced high off the rim on the second miss, and Bender was whistled for a foul on the play, her fifth.
Anna Denson made one of two free throws for a 52-49 Choctaw Central lead. After Baldwyn got the ball across half court, Angie Antillon was fouled with 2.7 seconds left.
Antillon made the first, missed the second on purpose, but was called for a lane violation. The Lady Bearcats made one more opportunity for themselves by tying up the inbounds pass with the possession arrow in their favor with .7 seconds left.
Inbounding the ball from the side, Baldwyn was forced to make a bad pass to the top of the key, which was intercepted by Choctaw Central.
Bender wound up with 31 points while Leslie Fuller led Choctaw Central with 14.
(G) Choctaw Central 52, Baldwyn 50
Baldwyn 12 7 15 16 50
Choctaw Central 12 15 12 13 52
Choctaw Central: Leslie Fuller 14, Randi Williams 13, Robin Isaac 12.
Baldwyn: Jamie Bender 31.
Records: Choctaw Central 32-4, Baldwyn 32-7.
Notes: Choctaw Central plays for the 2A state championship Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of Nettleton and Bruce.