Anxiously awaiting the final buzzer, Takisha Jordan sat restlessly on the bench chewing her fingernails as she watched the final seconds tick off the clock.
It had been more than two minutes since Jordan fouled out of the game, but for the Austin High point guard, the wait felt more like hours.
But then the horn sounded: Jordan’s cue to leap up from her seat and lead the charge onto the court.
The celebration was on. A long-awaited celebration.
With its leading scorer fouled out on the bench, Austin rallied back from a four-point deficit to beat Bob Jones 44-43 Thursday night in a Class 6A sub-regional game, sending the Black Bears to their first Northwest Regional in seven years.
Austin (23-7) advances to face Hoover on Wednesday in the Class 6A Northwest Regional semifinals at Wallace State-Hanceville.
“Biggest win our team has been a part of,” Jordan said. “Everything we had to overcome, that just makes winning tonight that much bigger. That was tough having to sit on the bench, but I never lost faith.”
Jordan’s confidence was warranted.
Katie Speegle made a basket to pull Austin within two, and after a Bob Jones turnover with less than a minute remaining, Meagan Hamilton sank a shot to tie the score.
Tyra Johnson sank a free throw with 31.7 seconds remaining to give Austin a 44-43 lead, and reserve Lauren Fitch forced a turnover in the closing seconds to crush Bob Jones’ hopes for a final shot.
Jordan led Austin with 11 points, while Speegle tossed in 10.
“That turnover was huge — one of the biggest plays of the game,” Austin coach Bruce Hamilton said. “Seeing these girls celebrate tonight, it’s a great thing to watch. They were dealt a lot of adversity tonight, but still found a way to persevere, and that was a great thing to see.”
Austin raced out to a commanding lead early, opening the game with a 16-4 run. Bob Jones didn’t have a field goal until Meredith Lovelady made a jumper at the 7:36 mark of the second quarter.
Lovelady led Bob Jones with 15 points, including three 3-pointers that helped the Patriots tie the score at 18 apiece by halftime.
Bob Jones never led until overtime, but the Patriots kept the score within a few possessions for most of the second half.
“There was nothing easy about this tonight,” Meagan Hamilton said. “Every time we would make a play, they came back and answered. But we found a way to pull through.”
When the final buzzer sounded, Austin’s players enjoyed a spirited celebration on the floor. The enthusiasm hadn’t tapered off almost 20 minutes later when the Black Bears began to flow out of the locker room.
“We’re going to Wallace,” Meagan Hamilton said with a wide smile. “Words can’t describe how excited we are. I can’t think of a better feeling than this.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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