Mississippi All-Star coach Charles Moore called a timeout with 7:14 remaining in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic at the Acadome on Friday night.
His girls had battled back to take a one-point lead at the half, but a determined effort by a superior Alabama team had dominated his team in every aspect of the game and built a 12-point lead.
“We went from what we had been doing to a four-low set (featuring one player) or a three-low set and had two girls who were going one on one,” Moore said.
With 2:40 remaining, Alabama continued to lead by four points, but Jerontay Clemons was just warming up.
Clemons scored the last five points of the game, finishing with an All-Star record 35, to lead Mississippi to a stunning 94-91 win over Alabama.
The Southern Mississippi signee was an obvious choice for most valuable player honors after the game.
“I just came out and played and gave it my all,” she said.
While most all-star games feature equal talent subbing in and out, the 5-foot-8 guard from Class 1A Coldwater High south of Memphis, Tenn., was unique. In the first place, few coaches put an all-star basketball game in the hands of one player. Secondly, few deliver with such ease, taking over a contest that had been controlled by Alabama for the first 35 minutes.
“At the two-minute mark, I realized they weren’t going to stop scoring and no one else stepped up, so I just stepped up and took over the game,” she said.
With 1:28 left, Clemons’ 3-pointer cut the Alabama six-point lead in half. After a missed free throw on the other end, Erika Sisk hit another 3-pointer to tie the game with 56 seconds remaining.
Then, it was all Clemons. And there was nothing Alabama could do about it.
“There at the end of the game, we were trying to keep the ball out of her hands,” said Alabama coach Brant Lewellyn of Lauderdale County High. “We were trying to completely deny her the ball, but she’s such a good player we couldn’t keep it out of her hands.”
A beautiful drive through the lane by Alabama signee Jasmine Steele of Midfield with 30.6 seconds left gave Alabama a lead, but Clemons took a quick inbounds pass and went 94 feet, driving over defender Tierra Jones for the basket and adding the free throw after she was fouled to give Mississippi a one-point lead with 23.3 seconds left.
Alabama had a great opportunity for the win in the final seconds but Chardonae Fuqua’s shot on a drive through the lane wouldn’t fall and Jasmine Jones didn’t put enough air on her putback.
Clemons wound up with the ball after the Mississippi rebound and hit both free throws to give her 35 points, tying Evette Porter of Louisville (Miss.) High for the most points ever scored in the 22-game series. Porter had 35 in a 92-84 win over Alabama in 1994 at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.
Clemons was 7-of-7 from the field in the second half and 7-of-9 from the free-throw line. She finished 11-of-12 from the field, including 4-of 4 from the 3-point line, and 9-of-13 from the free-throw line, along with five rebounds, three assists, two turnovers and two steals in 31 minutes of playing time.
Sisk added 11 points, followed by Jasmine Golden with 10.
After the game, Llewellyn could only shake his head at Clemons’ performance.
“We talked all week about the way you win this game is you play defense and you play hard,” he said. “All-star games tend to turn into one-on-one shows. We talked to them about playing as a team and the team that played the best defense was going to win.”
Tiarra Pollnitz had 15 points, including 11 in the first half, to earn most valuable player honors for Alabama. Jones also had 15, followed by Lydia McGee with 14, Fuqua with 11 and Hayden Hamby with 10.