PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast saw a 16-point third-quarter lead all but disappear Monday night, but the Bulldogs held on for a much-needed 57-56 win over Meridian at the Weathers-Wentzell Center.
"A win is a win," Gulf Coast coach Hope Adams said. "I think after those two road losses, we're trying to gather ourselves and figure out who we are as a team. I told them we really needed this win because the South is so unpredictable."
Gulf Coast (15-4, 7-4 MACJC South) can clinch a second straight trip to the state tournament by beating archrival Pearl River at Perk on Thursday.
The Bulldogs are in that position thanks in large part to Nakendra Owens (So., Port Gibson /Port Gibson), who scored a career-high 18 points. She made a crucial putback plus an and-1 with 53 seconds left to break a 52-52 tie.
"Kiwi was huge for tonight," Adams said. "When she's just playing and not thinking, hands down she's the best at her position on the floor."
After a Meridian bucket, Mia Goolsby calmly made two free throws with 19.8 seconds left for a 57-54 lead.
The Eagles (7-13, 4-7) had a chance to tie with 15.9 seconds after Belize Reed drove for a basket and got fouled. But she missed her free throw to tie.
Gulf Coast turned the ball over trying to bring the ball up court, but managed to survive a pair of missed shots in the lane by the Eagles.
"We struggled scoring around the basket tonight," Adams said. "That's been our strength, but we were able to pull out the win."
Kelsi Jackson (Fr., South Jones/Moselle) had 10 points for the Bulldogs, who led 44-28 with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter.
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