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High school girls basketball: Parkway falls just short in drama-filled 5A title game

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The ultimate heartbreaker.

If you’re a Parkway fan, that’s how you’ll likely remember the Parkway Lady Panthers’ 80-79 double overtime loss to the Ponchatoula Lady Wave in the Class 5A state championship game Saturday night in Hammond.

The Lady Panthers rallied twice, coming back from down eight at the half. They also fought back after falling behind by five in the second overtime.

The game featured clutch performances by players from both teams.

Ponchatoula’s Jaylee Womack, a Tulane signee, hit a 3-pointer with the final seconds ticking off the clock in regulation to send the game into overtime tied at 62. She had missed her previous eight 3-point shots.

She also had what proved to be the winning basket with 14 seconds left after Mikaylah Williams nailed a 3-pointer to give Parkway a 79-78 lead.

Parkway sophomore Chloe Larry knocked down a 3-pointer and then sank three pressure-packed free throws after being fouled on a 3 to send the game into a second overtime.

Makenna Miles hit two free throws to give the Lady Panthers the 62-59 lead.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Parkway Head Coach Gloria Williams said during the postgame press conference. “We battled. We never gave up until the clock was zero-zero and we didn’t have any more possessions.”

Larry was sensational. She led Parkway with 34 points, including five 3-pointers. Larry scored 14 points in the third quarter, helping the Lady Panthers take a 43-40 lead in into the fourth.

“I knew we had to get the job done, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen the way you want it too,” Larry said.

Williams scored scored 23 points, including 19 in the second half, and had eight rebounds and six assists. She was 11-of-12 from the free throw line.

Parkway finished 33-3. But one loss was a forfeit and the other was against one of the top teams in Arkansas in an event in Little Rock.

Saturday’s defeat was their only loss to a Louisiana team on the court. Parkway defeated Ponchatoula 60-35 in the regular season.

The Lady Panthers accomplished that without a single senior.

“The season as a whole was a pretty amazing season,” Gloria Williams said. “Overall I think we had a very successful season. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end. But we’ll learn from this and be back next year more disciplined.”

Gloria Williams said she was disappointed in the number of turnovers Parkway had in the first half. The Lady Panthers finished with 27, but they also forced 24.

“At times we were undisciplined,” Mikaylah Williams said. “They were the more disciplined team. That’s why they came out on top today.”

Womack, named the game’s Most Outstanding Player, led Ponchatoula (35-2) with 32 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter. Taylor Jackson had 24 points and eight rebounds.

The state championship was Ponchatoula’s second overall. The Lady Wave’s first was in 2015.

Last year, Ponchatoula was undefeated until a loss to Benton in the semifinals.

Ponchatoula is five miles from the Southeastern Louisiana University Center, site of the title game, and had a large contingent of fans.

“It’s a big stage, lot of people, their home court,” Gloria Williams said. “I’m not making any excuses. They’re a very disciplined, well-coached senior squad.”

Parkway was in the championship game for the first time. Williams was looking for her first title as a head coach.

If anyone can empathize with her, it’s her husband, Parkway principal Jeremiah Williams, the former head boys coach at Bossier. 

Bossier finished runner-up in Class 4A in 2008-09 and 2009-10 before Williams got his first title in 2010-11. 

With everybody returning barring unforeseen circumstances, it won’t be a surprise if his wife gets another shot next season.

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