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Jacylin Houston, Aniyah Hunter lead Louisville past Raymond, into 4A Championship

Louisville's dynamic duo came up clutch in the closing minutes of Monday's semifinal

JACKSON — The Louisville Wildcats earned the right to play for a Class 4A Championship later this week, but nothing about Monday’s 61-58 semifinal win over Raymond came easy.

The Wildcats (28-2) struggled early, but surged into the lead late in the fourth quarter and held on for the win. They will face Pontotoc at 5 p.m. Thursday with a golden ball on the line.

“I’m really proud of the girls for fighting through the adversity,” Louisville coach Mitchell McCurry said. “But that’s the way it’s been all year. We found a way to win and so proud of the girls for getting it done.”

Raymond came out hot in the first half, building an 18-12 lead before Aniyah Hunter hit a huge three for Louisville to cut it to 18-15 at the end of the first quarter.

The Wildcats picked up right where they left off in the second quarter, out-scoring Raymond 18-10 to take a 33-28 lead into the halftime break.

Raymond got off the deck in the third quarter. The Rangers opened with a 9-3 run, tied it at 41-41 on a bucket from D’asia Franklin and took the 44-41 lead on Leah Sutton’s and-one layup to finish the quarter.

But Hunter got hot again in the fourth, and Louisville’s freshly minted MHSAA Miss Basketball Jacylin Houston turned a couple of Raymond turnovers into easy baskets to regain the lead.

It was Hunter who hit the biggest layup of the evening on a fast break to put Louisville ahead 61-55 with 90 seconds left on the clock.

Hunter missed four consecutive free throws in the final minute, but the Rangers couldn’t find the basket on either of their final two possessions.

The Rangers in-bounded the the ball with three seconds to play at half court, but failed to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.

Houston scored a game-high 23 points for Louisville. Hunter made half of her 12 shot attempts and finished with 17 points. Keeli Latham scored 10, including a huge three-pointer that trimmed Raymond’s fourth-quarter lead from seven to four.

“It was a defensive kind of game,” Houston said. “We just couldn’t get it going early and after we fell behind, we just had this feeling that we didn’t want to go home. We had to find a way.”

Sutton finished with 17 points to lead Raymond (25-6). Franklin scored 13 points and Leah Roberts chipped in 11. The Rangers shot an impressive 43 percent (20-47) from the floor, but committed 27 total turnovers.