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Lady Hornets’ Britt is money

She’d been there before.

With 0.9 seconds remaining in the game against Amite County and the score tied at 36, Loyd Star junior Sarah Britt put her toes up to the free throw stripe and breathed hard for composure. The home crowd was on its feet to her left, the opposing coach coming unglued about the foul call somewhere back over her right shoulder. She had two shots, but with barely enough time remaining for an inbounds pass, one shot would do it.

She hit both to give the Lady Hornets a 38-36 victory and the No. 2 standing in Region 7-2A.

“I gotta make ’em. That’s what was going through the ole noggin,” Britt said. “We can’t go down at home.”

Britt got to the line in 20 seconds of high drama. With that much time on the clock, it was Loyd Star’s ball, but the girls mishandled an inbounds pass and turned it over to Amite County. Instead of driving down for the winning shot, the Lady Trojans got crossed up in traffic and stepped out of bounds.

The Lady Hornets used 12 seconds to set up another inbounds pass. With a little more than four seconds to go, Britt drove down the baseline and collided with Lady Trojan Kathleen White under the basket. Both rolled on the hard floor, and the official called Amite County with a push to send Britt to the free throw line with the game on her shoulders.

“I don’t think your nerves ever go away,” she said. “You don’t want to upset a crowd like this. You want to give them something to cheer for.”

Britt finished the game hitting 13-of-16 free throws for 81 percent at the line, hitting 8-of-10 in the fourth quarter as the team’s strategy made her the pressure point of the offense.

“Once Amite County got in foul trouble, Sarah made her free throws. That’s how we’ve been winning a lot of our games,” said Lady Hornets senior Marley Poole.

The Lady Hornets finished with 17 total rebounds, most of them grabbed up by junior Christie Patterson. Assists and steals came at a premium against Amite County’s tight defense, with the Loyd Star girls totaling only six and two, respectively.

Most importantly, the win put the Lady Hornets in second place in Region 7-2A. They will sit out the first night of this week’s region tournament at Enterprise.

It has been an amazing season for the Lady Hornets, who were projected to finish at the bottom of the barrel after losing seven players off last year’s team.

On senior night, Poole — the Lady Hornets’ lone senior — didn’t have time to reflect on her career or feel the tightness in her heart that comes with moving on.

“I’m excited about what’s happening with the season,” she said. “After we lost to Enterprise, West Lincoln, Amite County, we knew what we had to do to get better. We knew we had to cut down on turnovers and make free throws. Everyone expected us to be in fifth place.”

Lady Hornets coach Gene Britt said he was proud of the girls’ regular season.

“They’ve come a long way, and they’ve showed they can play,” he said. “Tonight, we did what we had to do to win. We made some key foul shots down the road. Sarah has been clutch for us. If we had to put somebody on the line, it’s her.”

Britt finished the game with 21 points. Sophomore Carly Beth Wallace backed her up with 11 points after a hot night shooting in which she hit three of five three-pointers. Patterson was next with five points, and Poole hit a single free throw.

Ambria Handy led Amite County with 10 points. Tahniya Ellis was next with eight points, while Shan Cain scored six. Aresha Chandler and Raven White scored five points each, and Kniyelle Jones dropped in two.

Lady Trojans coach Takeya Felder was upset at several calls during the game, especially Kathleen White’s push on Britt at the end.

“I blame it all on bad judgment by the officials,” she said. “There were some bad calls. We’re still in a good spot for the tournament. We’re going to do the same thing — we’re going to get up and we’re going to pressure.”

Loyd Star’s regular season ends at 12-9, with a 5-3 record in Region 7-2A.

The Lady Trojans finish at 4-18, with a 2-4 record in the region.

The two teams have a rematch in their first action of the postseason, playing Thursday at 7 p.m. in the region tournament at Enterprise.