For the tenth time in eleven seasons, the Southeast Lauderdale Tigers are heading to Jackson for the 3A final four. It would be their first girls basketball championship since 2008.
"I feel pretty confident because we've been there. We know how it feels to get there," said senior forward Jasmine Bush. "So we know what it takes. We know how loud the environment is, and we've been waiting all year just to get there. It's my senior year, and I really want it bad."
With only two losses this season, Southeast has been dominant, but everything changed in Saturday's South State final. In the fourth quarter, stand-out forward Crystal Clay and point guard Denisha Knight both suffered identical knee injuries. Moments later, Chariae Harbin, the team's best three-point shooter, left the game with an injury as well. Harbin hit six threes the night before against Collins.
"Well, if you look at 'em today, they can hardly walk," says head coach Joe Miller. "But I know how tough they are, and I think by Saturday, we'll get one or two back... or maybe all three. They won't be a hundred percent..."
Help is much needed as the tigers face Ripley high school and guard Jalya Chills, ranked by the Clarion-Ledger as one of the top 12 twelve players in the state.
"We're working on defense real hard," says Bush. "And we just gotta box out. Just got to make sure we know where she is at all times. We gotta play defense on her."
With three of her best teammates potentially watching from the sidelines, Bush will have to play even stronger under the basket if the tigers want payback against a Riply team that's eliminated them from title contention two years in a row.
"We still have three of the starters who were there last year and the year before, so we still know what we're gonna do [and] how we're gonna do it."