Gadison’s big plays propel Simmons into state semifinals

TUPLEO — It was so loud that Simmons girls basketball coach Bernita Alexander said she could not hear herself think.

But, Alexander’s Devilettes overcame the raucous road environment and made the key plays when they needed to in Simmons’ 49-48 victory Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A Girls Basketball Tournament.

The victory earns Simmons a trip to Jackson for the state semifinals where the Devilettes will face Hamilton at 10:30 a.m. on Monday. This is the Devilettes first trip to the state semifinals since 2004.

“We were faced with a lot of adversity, but they found a way to win,” Alexander

said.

Senior Jalelia Gadison once again stepped up in the biggest moment for her teammates.

The score was tied at 48-48 with 1:17 left to play in the game, and the Devilettes’ offense held the ball for the final minute of play in order to take the last shot. Gadison’s free throw with five seconds proved to be the game winner as Tupelo Christian’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer missed its mark.

“It was actually a good thing that she missed the second free throw because the clock started running and they did not have time to set up a play,” Alexander said.

Senior Tiara Willis led the Lady Blue Devils with 16 points. Gadison scored 15 points and grabbed eight steals for Simmons. Freshman Taylor Lucas-Howard scored eight points. Sophomore Na’Riah Robinson scored seven points along with a team-leading 11 rebounds

Tiara Willis is dedicating this season to her father, George Willis, who died last summer.

Willis brought five championships to Simmons. He won three boys state championships and two girls state championships.

While George Willis had retired from coaching the Simmons’ team, he never retired from being Tiara’s coach.

“He would come to any big game, and he would always be my rock,” Tiara said earlier this season. “No matter how I played, he never kept encouraging me.”