GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - “Grit, attitude, determination."
Senior point guard De’Asia Booker summed up Harrison Central’s double overtime victory over Pearl perfectly with those three words. After trailing at halftime and in both overtimes, the Rebelettes somehow managed to dig just a bit deeper to take down the Pirates in a 76-73 thriller.
“I’m proud, I’m happy for my team," Booker said. "We put in all week for this, scrimmaging against boys, crying, long days at practice.”
“No, this is not what I expected at all," head coach Nancy Ladner said. "I just expected a calm game, for us to go through it, but hey, I’ll take what we get. When we went into halftime I said we need 16 minutes of grit, and that’s what they gave us.”
Pearl ended Harrison Central’s season a year ago, but in 2020, the Rebelettes were fueled by revenge. When two starters fouled out in overtime, Harrison Central did not fold, finding contributions from young reserves and 20 point games from their frontcourt in Je’Mya Evans and Laila Walker.
Had it not been for Booker’s clutch free throw shooting in the final 30 seconds, the game might still going.
“My calf muscles are tight, all I was thinking was Jesus, let me make the free throw,” Booker said. “Pearl beat us, now we got on their tail.”
“You would think that we never practice free throws but we practice them every single day," Ladner said. "I thought we played defense when it counted, but the true thing right here was just our grit.”
The Rebelettes are now back in the Final Four for the first time since 2015, and they’ve got plenty of fight left in them.
“We’ve looked at the big picture," Ladner said. "Every single morning we say we’re going back to the drawing board, we look at what we’re playing for, and then we break it down to one game at a time.
This is the most exciting one we’ve had in my coaching career.”
Harrison Central (27-5) will face Olive Branch (22-6) - a rematch of 2015′s state semifinals - Wednesday, March 3rd at 4 p.m. at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.