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Two shots: Loyd Star’s Britt beats Bogue Chitto 37-36 at free throw line with no time on clock

In a crowded gymnasium at Bogue Chitto, she was all by herself.

The fans cried out in her name, crazy with the hope of salvation, like wounded soldiers or sinners at revival. But then they quieted down. Her teammates hugged and high-fived her, sharing what confidence they had left after four quarters of hard basketball, but then the officials herded both teams away to the half court line.

Loyd Star junior Sarah Britt stood alone at the free throw line, trailing the Lady Bobcats 36-35 with 0:00 on the game clock after getting fouled at the fourth-quarter buzzer.

The head official held up two fingers.

“Two shots!” he called. He bounced the ball to Britt. At the lonesome west end of the court, the game belonged to her.

The first shot sank. Tie game. Her second shot hit the bracket and bounced up, heading skyward in a straight trajectory, just a few inches that went on for miles. It barely moved the net on its way through to the floor.

Britt leapt, and was mobbed by her team. The Lady Hornets won 37-36.

“I was just thinking, ‘All I need to do is make one to tie. I can handle overtime.’ I knew my team had my back,” Britt said. “After the first shot went in, I relaxed some. Then I thought, ‘I’d have to try a lot harder if I miss, so why go to overtime? Let’s get it over and win.’”

And so she did, stealing a battle of a game from the Lady Bobcats, who played with their fangs out for 32 minutes and recorded some of the best basketball of their season. The Lady Hornets were down one point with 5.4 seconds on the clock when sophomore Carly Beth Wallace caught the inbounds pass and sailed it down-court to Britt, who managed to fire off a bad shot in the paint, grab her own rebound and get one more shot up before the buzzer, collecting a foul in the game’s last breath.

“Coach said to get up high and take it in if I had a chance. I knew I’d have a better chance fouling if I went inside,” Britt said. “They had been after me all night. It got pretty rough in there.”

It was rough — too rough for the Lady Hornets, who seemed winded and confused on the receiving end of Bogue Chitto’s defensive attack. After trailing 21-14 at halftime, the Lady Bobcats threw pressure in Loyd Star’s face, and it worked — the home team went on a 16-3 run late in the game.

But Britt slowly shot Loyd Star out of the jam. After Bogue Chitto senior Lineka Newson got called for a technical with 3:34 remaining in the game, Britt hit three of four freebies to bring the Lady Bobcats’ lead down to 32-30. She tied the game with two more free throws at the 3:03 mark, and connected a layup at 1:28.

She would finish the game with 21 points, leading her team by far on an off night for the Lady Hornets in which they shot a terrible 23 percent.

“Whenever you get shots three feet from the goal, you need to make those,” said Loyd Star junior Christie Patterson. “We were flat tonight. We need to work on our ball-handling.”

The Lady Bobcats took advantage, beating Loyd Star in almost every statistical category. The Bogue Chitto girls out-rebounded the Lady Hornets 47-27, led in assists and recorded 10 steals to Loyd Star’s one.

Unfortunately for Bogue Chitto, they were also whistled for 19 personal fouls that gave Loyd Star 26 shots from the free throw line. Britt took 14 of them, hitting 11, including the two fatal shots at the end of the game. Bogue Chitto went 11 of 24 from the stripe off 12 fouls.

“Free throws win ballgames,” said Lady Bobcats coach Christie Terrell. “In the third quarter we played pretty good, but we’re still in an offensive rut. We’ve got to learn to put the ball in the basket, and we’ve got to make free throws.”

The dramatic finish was hard on Terrell and the Bobcats, who should have been celebrating their second victory in January.

“We started fouling, and (Britt) kept making all her free throws,” said Lady Bobcats junior Karly Leake. “We should have made our free throws, too. We’ve just got to keep practicing and get ready for the next game.”

After Britt’s 21 points came Patterson’s six, with sisters Marley and Megan Poole providing four points each. Sophomore Carly Beth Wallace rounded out Loyd Star’s scoring with two.

Lady Bobcats sophomore Kamilah Clay led her team in scoring with seven points, while juniors Baileigh Jackson and Cheyenne Hall scored six each. Newson scored five points, while Leake and sophomore DeAnna Edwards had four each. Junior Charlsie Wilson and freshman Kayci Wallace had two each.

The win takes Loyd Star to 2-3 in the region. The Lady Hornets host Enterprise Tuesday night.

The loss drops the Lady Bobcats to 1-3 in Region 7-2A. They play at Amite County Friday night.