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Lady Tide earns 5A playoff berth

BIG SHOT: Picayune’s Jada Simmons hit a big 3-pointer in double overtime to pace the Lady Tide to a win over Stone County Tuesday night. Photo by James Pugh

BIG SHOT: Picayune’s Jada Simmons hit a big 3-pointer in double overtime to pace the Lady Tide to a win over Stone County Tuesday night.
Photo by James Pugh

GULFPORT — Picayune’s Jada Simmons hit the biggest shot of her career Tuesday afternoon.

Simmons, a senior guard, nailed a 3-pointer with just over a minute to play propelling the Lady Tide to a 65-62 double overtime win over Stone County here at West Harrison High School in opening round play of the Region 7-5A Tournament.

The win pushes Picayune to 9-16 overall, but more importantly secures a berth in the upcoming Class 5A South State playoffs for the Lady Tide.

“I had been cold all night, but we needed something to happen right then,” Simmons said. “I just released it and hoped that it would go in. It did.”

Brandi Magee sank a pair of free throws for Picayune with five seconds to play in regulation, sending the game into the first extra session tied at 44-44.

The Lady Tide led 54-52 late in the first OT, but Stone’s Alicia Howze made two free throws with less than three seconds remaining to push the game into the second OT tied at 54-54.

But Picayune wasn’t to be denied, as Simmons nailed her huge trey with the game tied and just over a minute to play, giving the Lady Tide a 61-58 lead they would never relinquish.

Simmons and Maya Whitehead then each converted a pair of free throws apiece in the final minute to seal the win.

“We only had two wins last year, and that’s when this journey started,” Picayune head coach Dennis Peterson said.

“The girls deserve all the credit. They worked hard as a group, grew up and decided to become a team. That whole process paid off tonight, because they never lost their composure and they showed great character.”

Picayune overcame an early 5-0 deficit thanks to six points by Whitehead in the first frame.

But the Lady Cats were hot from the outside, sinking a trio of 3-pointers in the opening period, including a final one at the buzzer by Alicia Howze that put Stone up 11-8 entering the second stanza.

Picayune’s Tearrah Harris tallied back-to-back baskets in the second period, and scored six points in the frame and the teams went to halftime knotted up at 19-19.

Stone dominated the third frame, outscoring the Lady Tide 10-3 over the first seven minutes of the second half to take a 29-22 lead.

The Lady ‘Cats led by five, 31-26, entering the fourth period, but Magee’s late free throws set the stage for the climactic ending.

Whitehead had a big game for the Lady Tide, scoring a game high 26 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Harris added 12 points and hauled down a game high 16 rebounds, while Magee added 11 points to the winning effort.

Picayune will meet either West Harrison or Long Beach Friday night at 6 p.m. in the girls championship game.