DECATUR — Kyla Gordon missed a layup that would have given her team the lead late in the fourth quarter.
She made up for it moments later.
Gordon banked home an elbow jumper that gave her squad a two-point advantage with 15 seconds remaining, and Newton County High School managed to hang on for a 45-44 win over Bay Springs High School Friday night.
"I missed the layup the previous time, so I was really frustrated," said Gordon, who finished with four points in the game. "I was open, but I didn't think (Megan Jim) was going to pass it, but she did. I was really happy that I made it."
Bay Springs had an opportunity to tie the game with 1 second to play, but Kelsey Patterson air-balled the second of two free-throw attempts.
"This was a huge win for us," Newton County coach Cory Cleveland said. "Starting out early in the year, we've been struggling a little bit with fundamentals. The last few games we've been playing fundamentally a lot better; we just have to keep working. (Friday) it came down to a battle, and I'm proud of my girls; they hung in there and wanted it bad enough to win."
The Lady Cougars (2-3) took their first lead of the final period midway through after Chrisetta Denson banked home a 3 from the wing. Cleveland said he felt the make gave his squad the momentum it needed to close out the game. Denson finished with 10 points, including three 3-point makes.
"I had three seniors on the floor at the time, and they've been (in close games) a time or two last year," Cleveland said. "They knew how to get people in the right position, and they did a good job of hanging on and getting the win."
Kaylin McCree led Newton County with 16 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
"She's on the top 40 list for the best players in the state," Cleveland said of the versatile forward. "She can go high, she can go low, she can shoot outside, and she can take care of the basketball when she needs to. ... She came out for a few minutes the first quarter, but she played the rest of the game. She's just going to have to realize that she's just going to have to get up and go."
The Lady Cougars trailed at the half 21-19 and also entering the fourth quarter, 32-29, but crawled their way back in the final quarter.
"A game likes this makes us play together more," Gordon said. "We have a lot of confidence in each other. Bay Springs plays good defense, they play a good zone and apply a lot of pressure."
Newton County will travel to Choctaw Central High School Tuesday night.
NEWTON COUNTY SQUANDERS LEAD
Leading by ten points midway through the quarter, Newton County appeared to be on its way to knocking off reigning MHSAA Class 2A state champion Bay Springs.
However, anything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Cougars from that point on.
Bay Springs took advantage of multiple miscues to outscore NCHS 22-6 the rest of third quarter and staved off Newton County in the final period to claim a 65-54 come-from-behind victory.
"We went and down and had a dunk (by DeRyan Wansley), and were going to go up nine or 10 points, instead it's a charging call, and they go down and get an easy basket," Newton County coach Steve Harber said. "It was just a big turnaround. That's been history our year. Four of our losses, we've been up at least 10 points with four minutes to go."
Harber said the Cougars (2-6) inability to close out games could possibly be attributed to being a youthful squad.
"We're kind of feeling our way right now," Harber said. "We have nine sophomores, and we're just trying to get better every time we play."
K.D. Hunt led Newton County with 14 points and seven rebounds. DeRyan Wansley chipped in with seven points and 12 rebounds, while Chris Molford had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
"Chris is one of nine sophomores on this team, and he's going to be a good player," Harber said. "He needs to get a little bit stronger, and he's just learning; he hasn't played a whole lot."
The Cougars led at the half 29-27. Newton County led 40-30 midway through the third quarter, but found itself trailing 52-46 as it entered the final period.
Nick Fenderson led Bay Springs with 20 points.
Newton County will look to reverse its fortune Tuesday at Choctaw Central.
"I was pleased with our effort on defense, we just turned the ball over at the wrong time," Harber said. "They capitalized and got easy buckets, and that's how the game ended."