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Monday, April 15, 2024

Jasper holds off Scottsboro to capture first State Championship

By Josh Bean, AHSAA

 BIRMINGHAM – Jasper High School made a series of clutch plays in the fourth quarter to win its first AHSAA girls’ basketball state championship, beating Scottsboro 48-44 in Saturday’s Class 5A championship game at the BJCC’s Legacy Arena.
     Tournament MVP Mia Hollinsworth gave Jasper (31-4), coached by Blake Laney, the lead for good with a three-point play midway through the fourth quarter, and sophomore center Missy Odom made two free throws with 14.1 seconds to go to close it out.
     “To be able to bring a championship back to Jasper means everything,” Odom said.
     Jasper’s Idaysia Mercer made 1-of-2 free throws with 28.2 seconds remaining to give the Vikings a 46-44 lead, and Scottsboro’s Bree Sexton then fired a 3-pointer on the other end of the floor. The ball bounced on the rim several times before  rolling off into Odom’s grasp as she cleared the rebound between three Scottsboro players.
     She was fouled and calmly made two free throws for the final margin to seal the win.
     “Bree had a really good look,” said Scottsboro coach Brandon Childers, who led his team to the state title game for the first time in school history. “You couldn’t ask for anything else. It bounced around and made us watch. Good decision there by the girls.”
     Added Odom, “I saw the ball go off the rim. I knew I had to jump up and grab it, and that’s what I did.”
     The teams traded the lead throughout the second half, and Hollingsworth’s short jumper with 4:39 to go made it 40-39 for the Vikings. Scottsboro’s Caroline Dawson answered 23 seconds later to make it 41-40, and Hollingsworth immediately replied with her three-point play with 4:01 remaining.
     “I think that kind of sealed the deal in my mind,” Hollingsworth said.
     Then, with Jasper holding a 43-41 lead, Laney called timeout with 2:31 to go and chose to pull the ball out and keep it in his best free-throw shooters’ hands Hollingsworth, point guard Idaysia Mercer and Odom. Laney said all were about 75% free-throw shooters this season. Jasper played keep-away for a full minute before calling another timeout with 1:27 to play.
     Scottsboro (27-7) had been whistled for only two fouls in the quarter, so the Wildcats had to commit three more team fouls before putting the Vikings on the line. The Vikings made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 46 seconds with Odom sinking 4-of-4.
     “It’s not rocket science,” Laney said. “Put the ball in your best players’ hands.”
     Hollingsworth who was 5-for-5 at the foul line, led Jasper with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, and Odom added 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. Hallie Harrell added 12 points and seven rebounds.
     Sexton led Scottsboro with 19 points, four rebounds and two assists, and Dawson added 15 points and six rebounds.
     “It’s tough to lose any time, but I’m really proud of how we fought and battled,” Childers said. “We had a shot to take the lead with about 10 seconds to go. … I’m really proud of how we competed today.”
     The 2024 State Finals continue with more championship games Saturday in Classes 5A, 6A and 7A. All championship games are being aired live over the Alabama Public Television Network and live streamed over the NFHS Network.

CLASS 5A GIRLS’ ALL-TOURNEY TEAM
Mia Hollingsworth, Jasper (MVP); Missy Odom, Jasper; Idaysia Mercer, Jasper; Bree Sexton, Scottsboro; Caroline Dawson, Scottsboro; Isabelle Nelson, Scottsboro.

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