Lafayette fends off fourth-quarter comeback, downs Neshoba Central 58-56

Published 12:00 pm Monday, February 20, 2023

They didn’t make it easy on themselves, but Lafayette managed to escape with a narrow 58-56 victory over Neshoba Central in the second round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs on Friday to set up a date with Holmes County Central in the quarterfinals.

The Lady Commodores (22-6, 8-0 Region 2-5A) jumped out to a first-quarter lead as both teams pushed the pace in transition and attempted to turn the game into a track meet in the early goings.

They pushed their advantage out to 24-14 with just over four minutes remaining before the break, but the Lady Rockets responded with a 13-5 run to narrow the deficit to just two in the closing seconds of the first half.

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Neshoba Central appeared poised enter the halftime break with all the momentum, but Lafayette scored back-to-back baskets in the final 18 seconds of the second quarter to extend their lead back out to seven.

The short burst swung the momentum back in their favor, and they quickly opened up a double-digit lead in the third as they became more comfortable attacking the Lady Rockets’ full-court press.

“To have that little 5-0 run in under 30 seconds to get us a little bit more of a cushion was huge,” said head coach Shayne Linzy. “As you can see by the final score, anything less than that and we wouldn’t be as happy as we are right now.”

The Lady ‘Dores carried a nine-point lead into the final quarter of action, but quickly found themselves in hot water after turning the ball over on three straight possessions to open the fourth.

Neshoba Central capitalized on the sloppy mistakes, going on a 17-6 run over the first six minutes of the quarter to take their first lead of the game at 56-54.

Down two with less than 90 seconds remaining, Lafayette’s Harmony Jackson was fouled after pulling down a rebound and went to the line with a chance to even the score with a pair of free throws.

The junior forward sunk her first attempt, but her second shot bounced high off the back of the rim before falling to Jadyn Herod, who was immediately on a putback attempt and stepped to the stripe with a chance to give the ‘Dores the lead.

Herod was unable to capitalize on the opportunity however, missing both attempts from the line to keep the score at 56-55.

Needing a stop with less than a minute remaining, sophomore Zanieya Booker stepped in and took a charge in the lane to give the ‘Dores possession with just under 50 seconds on the clock.

With a surge of newfound momentum behind them, Lafayette pushed the ball quickly up the court and immediately found junior Madison Smith, who stepped confidently into a triple from the top of the key and buried it to give the ‘Dores a 58-56 advantage with 25 seconds to go.

“This was a big shot for Maddie because of last year. In the second round of the playoffs, Maddie had the last shot at the buzzer and she wasn’t able to hit it and we lost by two. Tonight she hit it and we won by two… that was huge,” Linzy said.

A block by junior Harmony Jackson on the Lady Rockets’ final possession sealed the victory for Lafayette, who moves on to face Holmes County Central in the quarterfinals at Itawamba Community College on Tuesday.