BEAUMONT — To be the best, you have to beat the best. The Port Arthur Memorial girls basketball team is halfway there, beating the top-ranked team in Class 4A Beaumont Ozen 53-52 to win the YMBL South Texas Shootout on Saturday at the Montagne Center.
Memorial (12-2) beat Beaumont Central 45-40 earlier in the day to advance to the finals, before handing No. 1 Ozen (9-1) its first loss of the season. It was the first time in school history that the Lady Titans have won the YMBL championship.
“It’s great for our confidence,” Memorial head coach Kevin Henry said. “We have a lot of momentum right now. We have one more game before district and we want to finish. But, it’s big to play a powerhouse like Ozen and coming out on top. It’s great for our program and great for our girls. We’ve seen improvements week in and week out over the last two years and that’s all I can ask for.”
The victory was not assured until the final moments, however. With Memorial up 53-49 with 40.1 seconds left, Ozen’s Nekia Jones hit a big 3-pointer to make it 53-52. Memorial took the ball down the court on the next possession, but missed a shot instead of running the clock out.
That gave Ozen an opportunity, and the Lady Panthers brought the ball up with 10 seconds left. SanQueisha Rawls got a point blank shot at the basket that she missed, before Jerica Bolin grabbed the rebound and went up with a second shot that also fell short just before the buzzer sounded.
“We were able to attack their zone,” Henry, who was named the tournament’s Coach of the Year, said. “We weren’t attacking and stepping in the gaps early on. We were able to make them work a little harder, which opened up some shots for us from the outside. Defensively, we were able to mix some things up to give them a different look.”