If only one moment defined Jessika Carter’s senior year at Harris County, it came in a do-or-die situation on February 27, 2018.
Carter and the Lady Tigers were down but not out against Carrollton in the Class 5A quarterfinals game. After a Carrollton layup put the Lady Trojans up 43-42 with one minute left in regulation, the game plan for Harris County was unmistakable: get the ball to Carter.
Following an inbound pass, NaKevia Adams caught the ball on the wing and fired it to Carter, who had three Carrollton defenders draped all over her. Despite the defensive pressure, Carter hit the shot and drew the foul, resulting in a free throw that put Harris County up 45-43.
The Lady Tigers held off the Lady Trojans for the 2-point win, making Carter the star in a game that sent Harris County to the state semifinals for the first time since 2000.
As memorable as the moment was, it was nothing new for Carter. She played the role of hero time and time again for Harris County, using her 6-foot-5 frame to bully and batter her way to hard-earned points night after night. Carter cracked 2,000 career points as a senior and was a driving force in the Lady Tigers’ 28-win season.
Thanks to her play, Carter has been named the All-Bi-City Large School Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“It was a great year,” Carter said. “We went to the Final Four, but we had a letdown. I wish we could have gone farther, but it was still a great season.”
Carter and her team had high expectations entering her senior year, and she said the team started to find its rhythm in December. At that point, Harris County played in the Crescom Holiday Invitational, tournament in Myrtle Beach featuring several prominent teams from all over the country.
The Lady Tigers won two games in the tournament by topping Fayette County and Brentwood Academy (Tenn.). Carter pointed at the stretch of games as a time in which the team built a chemistry that carried with them for the remainder of the year.
“Whenever we went to Myrtle Beach in December, we all bonded a little bit more,” Carter said. “(Playing in the tournament) meant a lot. It showed us how good we were.”
Carter continued to show out as Harris County rolled to 20 consecutive victories. Carter’s favorite highlight, of course, was the win over Carrollton, which proved to be her last as a Lady Tiger.
“It meant a lot to us. We were still in it, and we were happy,” Carter said. “I just refused to lose. That’s it.”
With her high school career now over, Carter sets her sights on Mississippi State. She admitted she’s nervous but excited about the next chapter of her playing career. She said she is returning to training in the coming days in order to prepare for her arrival in Starkville, which she said will likely come a week or two after she graduates on May 19.
Carter said her time at Harris County went by too fast and that part of her wishes she could stay. At the same time, she’s eager to move on to the next level and make a name for herself at Mississippi State.
“I’m ready to play now, get better and get stronger,” Carter said.