|Central's Nina Davis, sandwiched between Overton's Kelsey Briggs (left) and Cortrice Golden, battles for a loose ball. Briggs scored 15 points in the Region 8-AAA victory.|
Three minutes of staying calm erased three years of frustration for Overton, which held on for a 58-55 win over Central and the Region 8-AAA girls basketball title Wednesday at White Station.
Cornelia Fondren earned MVP honors with 13 points, including a trademark coast-to-coast charge to spark a 6-0 first-half closing run that put the Wolverines (27-2) on top for good, 29-23.
But breaking a string of a three straight regional championship losses to the Warriors (23-7), wouldn't have happened without more than a little help from the Syracuse signee's friends. Start with 11 of junior Kelsey Briggs' 15 points in the first half. But no contribution was better timed than the one by UT-Martin-bound center Cortrice Golden, who scored 10 of her 15 in the final period as Overton withstood two comeback tries.
"This gets us one game from where we want to be," said Fondren, whose team will host Bartlett in Saturday's sectional round, while Central plays at Region 7 champ Arlington. "Tonight I had to be patient, and we all had to be looking to make assists, to look for each other."
Central found its defensive groove in the fourth quarter and cut a 48-36 deficit to 50-48 on two Aaliyah Whiteside free throws with 2:46 to go. Overton's Philecia Atkins answered with a bucket and then Golden muscled her way to two monster putbacks to re-open an eight-point edge.
"I told our kids to stay calm, just do what we'd been doing, and trust themselves," said Overton coach Lynn Smith.
Central battled back one last time, but could only manage an off-balance 3 attempt by Danielle Ballard that hit the back iron as time expired.
"Overton executes very well on offense to get what it wants," said Central coach Niki Bray, who got 13 points apiece from Nina Davis and Whiteside and 19 from Jalen O'Bannon. "But missed free throws have killed us both games against them. We can't work as hard as we did and give it away on the line."