The Viola Lady Longhorns jumped out to an early lead and then managed to withstand a late Mount Pleasant comeback on their way to a 55-45 victory over the Lady Bluebirds in the championship game of the 1A-2 North District Tournament Feb. 15 at Williford High School.
The seeds for the second-seeded Lady Horns' win were sown in the very first period, as Viola used a big burst to put top-seeded Mount Pleasant on its heels.
The first period was also when Viola's Taylor Griggs made it known that she was in Williford to take care of business.
Mount Pleasant, the regular season champs in the 1A-2 North, hit a couple of early buckets, one from Jessica Daigle (six points) and one from Sara Adams (six points), before going into a prolonged slump from the field.
Griggs went to work in the low block and jump-started a huge 14-0 run for the Lady Longhorns (19-11). Griggs knocked down eight points in the first period, on her way to a game-high 21-point night for Viola.
All of Viola's hoops during this 14-point outburst were the results of the Lady Horns driving to the rack through Mount Pleasant's defense.
Daigle finally broke the drought for the Lady Bluebirds with a jumper at the 40-second mark of the first, but Viola held a 16-6 lead after one.
But Mount Pleasant (21-9) didn't win the conference's regular season by folding under pressure, and the Lady Bluebirds showed what they are made of in the second period.
Adams stuck back a missed shot, Melissa Martin (three points) hit a layup and Erica Biard (18 points) swiped the ball and went in for a layup to cap a 6-0 run for Mount Pleasant, pulling the Lady Bluebirds within four points, 16-12.
Chasidy Hutson (six points) got shaken up midway into the second and was forced to leave the contest. When she did return, she was still in obvious pain, but managed to gut it out and play some big minutes down the stretch for Viola.
Viola managed to hold off Mount Pleasant long enough in the last minute of the half to take a 23-21 to intermission.
The third period opened with Viola's Elisabeth Collins (10 points) crashing the boards for a couple of putbacks that extended the Lady Longhorns' advantage to 27-21.
It looked the game was beginning to creep away from Mount Pleasant's reach late in the third, as Griggs unloaded for six points down the stretch to push Viola in front 39-27.
But Mount Pleasant still refused to fold. Biard jacked a triple, followed by one by Kallie Johnson that pulled the Lady Bluebirds within six, 39-33, after three. Johnson stepped forward big-time in the last eight minutes and 10 seconds of play, nailing four triples in that span of time to keep Mount Pleasant's chances alive.
This included back-to-back 3-balls from Johnson at the 4:23 mark of the fourth that edged Mount Pleasant within three points, 43-40.
But that was as close as the Lady Bluebirds could get, due in part to four straight missed free throws from Mount Pleasant in the last two minutes of the game.
Viola, however, went six-for-eight from the charity stripe in the last minute-and-a-half to hold off Mount Pleasant and win the district tournament 55-45.
Both teams advanced to the regional tournament at Izard County High School.
Dedra Johnston and Mikita Thompson finished with six points each for Viola, runners-up to Mount Pleasant in the regular season, while Kristen Montgomery added three and Leslie Barker logged one point for the Lady Longhorns.
Mount Pleasant earned a spot in the finals with a 51-45 win over the host team from Twin Rivers Feb. 14.
Biard led all scorers with 20 points, while Martin had 16 and Adams nine. Niki Edge, Daigle and Arleigh Qualls ended the game with two points apiece.