CLINTON — Briana Thompson didn't play at all for three quarters, but when her coach called her name, the sophomore delivered – in a big way.
"At that point, our energy level was low," Gulf Coast coach Hope Adams said. "I said let me pull somebody off the bench that will at least give me some energy. She came in and gave us energy and three big buckets. I'm proud of her. She changed the momentum in the game."
Thompson, a guard from Jackson, nailed three consecutive 3-pointers in an NJCAA Region 23 semifinal to flip a five-point deficit to a lead Mississippi Gulf Coast would never relinquish. The Lady Bulldogs beat Copiah-Lincoln 64-59 Thursday at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus.
Gulf Coast heads to the finals to play the winner of the Itawamba-Jones game played later Thursday. The finals will start at 5 p.m. Friday.
Gulf Coast (16-9) trailed 49-44 with 6:26 to play when Thompson got to work. She hit her first 3 from the top of the key, then moved to right wing for the next two. The last made it 53-49 with 4:08 left.
"This is my sophomore year, so I have to leave it all on the floor," Thompson said. "I just wanted to go in and get the job done. I knew my team needed me, so I stepped up in the fourth quarter.
Co-Lin (21-7) would make a couple of old-fashioned three-point plays to surge back into the lead before Allison Martin (Fr., Edwards/Raymond) had her time to shine. She made a pair of free throws to tie it, then scored on a drive with 1:47 left for a 57-55 lead.
Martin then stole the ball and shoveled ahead to Shelli Thigpen (So., Wylie, Texas/Wylie). Thigpen answered every Co-Lin bucket with two free throws down the stretch to hold off the Lady Wolves.
Kayla Simmons (Fr., Brandon/Brandon) led the Lady Bulldogs with 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor. Daphane White (Fr., Gulfport/St. Martin) had 12 points as the post players dominated the paint.
"Their post players were smaller than us, so we could bang with them and post up on them," said Simmons.
Thigpen had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in addition to five assists.
The Lady Bulldogs hadn't beaten Co-Lin since 2013 before downing the Lady Wolves 66-57 on Feb. 4 in Perkinston. Now, they've won two straight.
"It's my first year, but it feels really good," Simmons said. "I'm glad we're still winning … and winning."
NJCAA Region 23 Women's Basketball Tournament
Game 1: Copiah-Lincoln 69, Pearl River 66
Game 2: Gulf Coast 81, LSU Eunice 74
Game 3: Jones 72, Northeast 61
Game 4: Itawamba 78, East Central 68
Game 5: Gulf Coast 64, Copiah-Lincoln 59
Game 6: Itawamba (21-4) vs. Jones (25-2), 3 p.m.
Championship: Gulf Coast vs. Game 6 winner, 5 p.m.
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