It wasn’t a matter of defense winning a championship. But it put fourth-seeded McKinley in position to win an East Baton Rouge Parish Girls Basketball tournament title.

The Panthers trailed by as much as nine points in their semifinal game. They ultimately used defense and determination to notch a 63-55 overtime win over top-seeded Liberty on Monday night at Scotlandville.

“We have worked hard all week long on our defense,” McKinley coach Krystal Flowers said. “I always tell my girls that it does not matter who we play, defense wins games. They fought for it tonight.”

Tyreona Sibley scored a game-high 29 points for the Panthers (3-0). The sophomore made 13 of the 18 free throws her team made. Gabrielle Lathers had 14 for McKinley, which advances to play No. 2 Zachary (3-0) in the title game set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Zachary beat Scotlandville 47-35 in the other semifinal.

“I was out there the whole time trying to pump my team up,” Sibley said. “I kept telling them we could do this. We believed we could do it, and we never gave in.”

It was the first loss for Liberty (3-1), the LHSAA’s Division II select champion two of the past three years. Whitney Hart led the Patriots with 19 points.

Hart and another major inside presence, Ceara Myers, fouled out before the end of the game.

A free throw by Sibley gave McKinley a 53-52 lead in regulation with 32 seconds left. But Markiyah Jefferson tied it by making a free throw with 10 seconds remaining.

Sibley made a free throw 33 seconds into the overtime period that gave McKinley the lead for good. Lathers followed with a putback less 40 seconds later to make it 56-53.

Three straight Liberty turnovers gave the Panthers the opening the needed to take control of the game.

ZACHARY 47, SCOTLANDVILLE 35: The Broncos (3-0) held the lead throughout. Each time the Hornets challenged, the Zachary found a way to work through the turnovers and missed shots that plagued both teams.

Tiarra McPipe led the Broncos with 13 points, while Kameira McDonald had a game-high 16 for third-seeded Scotlandville (2-1).

First case in point — Scotlandville cut the Zachary lead to three points midway through the second quarter. But the Broncos scored the final seven points on a 3-pointer from the wing by Talyn Thomas.

But the crucial momentum change came in the fourth quarter. The Broncos had a double-digit lead. A 6-0 SHS run made it 36-32 game after a free throw by Williams. McPipe responded with a 3-pointer that ignited an 11-2 run that closed the game.

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