Ulmer's last-second shot captures program's first State Title

By CAMAL PETRO,

JACKSON – The ghosts of past state championship losses almost haunted the Hattiesburg Lady Tigers Friday night inside the Mississippi Coliseum, but sophomore Chelsea Ulmer wanted none of it.

With 4 seconds remaining in the 5A State Championship between Hattiesburg and West Jones, and West Jones leading by one, Ulmer stole an inbounds pass and quickly scored to give Hattiesburg a 1-point lead. The Lady Mustangs, understandably shocked, had 2 seconds to answer but couldn’t, which sent the Lady Tigers’ bench into a frenzy.

The Lady Tigers captured their first state title in their program’s history with the 48-47 win over West Jones, erasing the pain of two devastating losses in the 2009 and 2012 State Championships.

“We’ve been on the other side of that twice, and it’s really not fun,” Hattiesburg coach Caronica Jackson said. “To know the girls worked so hard and had that fighting spirit for them to stay focused, keep playing for each other and to not quit on that last possession.

“Hey, we’ll take it. The third time is definitely the charm.”

Ulmer, who was playing in her third game back from a stress fracture in her leg, scored 10 points – the last being the biggest of her life.

SIDEBAR: Ulmer returns from injury to help lead Hattiesburg to state title

“I was like, ‘We have to get the stop,’” Ulmer told reporters immediately after raising the Golden Ball trophy with her teammates. “When I got the ball and I made it, I was like, ‘We did it.’ That’s all I can say. We did it.

“We did this game for our seniors this year and for our coach.”

One of those seniors, Ulmer’s sister Terralyn Ulmer, led the Lady Tigers with 13 points and three steals. The two shared a moment with each other after shaking hands with West Jones.

“I was just excited,” Terralyn said of the moments after her sister’s basket. “It was a great feeling and I was happy. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock that we won.”

It took a team effort to make the final play, too.

Sophomore Chaise Stinson was guarding the West Jones player who was inbounding the ball. As she jumped around attempting to block an easy pass, it forced the ball into the paint where Hattiesburg junior Kenedi Walker was there to get a hand on it. After the ball bounced loose underneath Hattiesburg’s basketball, Chelsea grabbed it to make the game-winning play.

“I kept my head up,” Chelsea said. “I kept them motivated and we got the last basket at the end.”

The sequence was set up because of two clutch free throws from Walker in the final minute. Trailing by three, Walker was fouled and sunk the two biggest free throws of her life to give Hattiesburg a 1-point lead with 35 seconds left.

Walker finished the night with 10 points and six rebounds.

“I looked at her, and you try not to say too much to them to get them out of the game, but I know she’s a shooter and she does a good job for us at the free throw line,” Jackson said of Walker. “We just had confidence when she got up there. I told them it was going to come down to mental toughness and withstanding a run, and she stepped up and knocked down those free throws for us.”

After West Jones’ Jurnee McLauin hit a jumper to give her team a 47-46 lead with less than 25 seconds left, the referees gave the ball back to West Jones with 14 seconds left. As Chelsea Ulmer dribbled to the basketball, the ball hit off a West Jones player’s foot, but the referee signaled Lady Mustangs’ ball.

Chelsea Ulmer got redemption, though.

“I don’t even know what happened,” Jackson said. “I just looked up and saw Chelsea with the ball and prayed it went in, and it did.”

Hattiesburg finishes the season 26-6 overall, and more importantly, the 5A State Champions.

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