The Paragould Lady Rams had a record that equaled Jacksonville’s, with wins over teams like North Little Rock, Vilonia, Beebe and Watson Chapel.
They also never really had a chance.
The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils won their first state championship Friday night, 54-43 over Paragould.
Jacksonville never trailed in the game after shocking everyone in attendance by jumping all over the Lady Rams early and leading 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
"I pretty much knew they would make a run at some point," said Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms. "You try to always have your team ready for that against a good team."
A three-pointer by Jessica Jackson set the tone for the game right off the bat. Tiffany Smith followed that with a three, and then watched Jackson work inside for a pair of baskets, including a three-point play.
Shakyla Hill added a free throw, and then Jackson hit a short jumper to cap off the 14-0 to start the game.
Paragould was too good to let that go on forever and began climbing back into the thick of things with an 8-0 run to end the first quarter.
The Lady Rams continued to work their way closer to even in the second quarter. Trailing 14-8 heading into the quarter, denying Jessica Jackson the ball went a long to shaving another three points off that deficit by halftime.
Jacksonville missed a pair of free throws in the second quarter and didn’t shoot as well overall in the quarter. A late three-pointer by Paragould’s Carson Gill sent Jacksonville to the locker room with a 24-21 lead at halftime. Paragould was just 2 of 19 from the three-point line in the game. Gill was 2 of 7, while Rachel Dicus was 0 for 6 and 0 for 10 from the field overall.
The third quarter was different as the Lady Devils put in a dominant defensive performance for most of the quarter, while Jackson was busy getting inside the paint. Neither team scored over the first three minutes, then the Lady Devils exploded for a quick eight points. Hill got it started with a bucket at the 5:06 mark, and then Jackson scored the next six points over the next 90 seconds.
Another basket by Jackson and a final shot by Keke Alcorn gave Jacksonville a 36-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Lady Red Devil defense allowed just one field goal and a trip to the free throw line for the Lady Rams in the third quarter.
"I think we just turned up the intensity a little bit on defense," said Mimms. "On offense, we got back to being aggressive and started getting to the line."
The fourth quarter had a scary moment when Jackson, Jacksonville’s All-American and Arkansas Lady Razorback signee, began feeling ill on the bench. A medical timeout was called as Jackson was having problems breathing easily. Jackson was helped off the court and attended to and was brought back to the bench near the end of the game, but didn’t play in the quarter.
Without their best player, Jacksonville’s girls didn’t panic for even one possession. Hill, Smith, Markela Bryles and Ashli Evans all scored during the quarter as Jacksonville held its lead. Paragould was never able to pull closer than eight points down.
"I told them that it was their time and they would need to finish it," Mimms said. "I was so proud of how they played in the fourth. As hard as they were all playing in the third, they played that much harder in the fourth."
Despite not playing in the fourth, Jackson led the Lady Devils with 22 points and nine rebounds. Hill was close to a triple-double with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Smith scored seven points, while Bryles had six points and seven rebounds. Alcorn, Evans and Alunte Petties each made a basket in the win.