Ponchy punches out Parkway in double OT

EDGED IN EXTRA TIME: The Parkway Lady Panthers fell two points shy of a state title Saturday night. (Photo by LARRY HYMEL).

By LARRY HYMEL, Special to the Journal

HAMMOND – Ponchatoula threw gimmick defenses at Parkway, and specifically its star guard Mikayla Williams, in the LHSAA Class 5A girls basketball championship game Saturday night.

Then in desperation, down three in the closing seconds of regulation, Ponchatoula threw up a prayer, and got its only trey of the night. Jaylee Womack’s off-balance effort from the top of the key swished through, forcing the first of two overtimes.

Haymakers were thrown for the next 10 minutes, especially in what turned out to be the last half-minute. Ponchatoula’s last one punched out Parkway, 80-79.

The Lady Green Wave did all it could to slow down Williams, using a box-and-1 defense in the first half and going triangle-and-2 afterward. But in the second half, and especially in double crunch time, the junior delivered over and over. Her biggest moment: a go-ahead NBA three-pointer off an inbounds pass, lifting the Lady Panthers up 79-78 with 25 seconds to go in the second OT.

Womack, voted the game’s MVP, drove downcourt and delivered what turned out to be the game-winner from 8 feet on the left baseline with 19 seconds left.

Williams took the ball the length of the court and pulled up from 14 feet in the lane, but her leaning try with five seconds left was off the mark. After a fierce scramble on the floor for the rebound, it was, naturally, Womack who snagged the loose ball on the baseline and dribbled out the last couple of seconds.

Ponchatoula (35-2) had to withstand a tremendous performance by Parkway’s Chloe Larry to claim the title. She finished with a game-high 34 points. Williams added 23 for the Lady Panthers (32-2).

Parkway seemed on its way to a title and its second win of the year over Ponchatoula after a pair of free throws were drained by Makenna Miles for a 62-59 lead with 29 seconds left. However, off an inbounds pass from in front of her bench, Womack dribbled once, then with two seconds showing, extended the game.

In the first overtime Ponchatoula led by as much as five (68-63) with 2:09 left, but Parkway didn’t waver. Larry had five points to trim the lead to 73-70, then hit three free throws in the final 25 seconds to send the game into double OT.

Parkway led three times in the second extra session, the last time on Williams’ 23-footer.

“It was a hard-fought game and we will learn from it,” said Parkway coach Gloria Williams. “Ponchatoula was more disciplined.”

Larry, who would have easily earned most valuable player honors, said, “Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.”

About her last ill-fated last shot, Williams said, “I thought it was the best look we had at the time.”

Ponchatoula’s box-and-1 defense limited Williams to just four points on only four shots in the first half and helped the fourth-seeded Green Wave to a 30-22 halftime advantage, despite only six points by Womack.

“Our press was effective, especially in the first half,” winning coach Patricia Landaiche said. “We lost to Parkway early in the season and wanted another shot at them. Jaylee turned it on in the second half.”

Larry had nine rebounds to lead Parkway while Williams had eight boards and dished out six assists.

Womack was a perfect 11-of-11 at the free throw line and Williams almost matched that with an 11-12 effort.

The championship was Ponchatoula’s second in the last seven years, its first since 2015. It was Parkway’s first appearance in the state finals.

Williams’ big night leads Parkway into championship game