Lady Cats riding hot streak
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GCHS wins tourney title, advances in playoffs
By RUSSELL TURNER
Raucus home crowds and huge second half efforts have worked well for the Greene County Lady Wildcats of late. GCHS used that formula to claim the Region 8-4A Basketball Tournament title on Friday and followed a similar course on Monday when they defended their coveted top seed and home-court advantage for the state playoffs with a 42-21 win over Northeast Jones.
On Friday, GCHS Head Coach Dale Kimble challenged his team after a subpar effort in the first two quarters had them trailing the tournament’s No. 1 seed by 14 points. To say they responded well would be an understatement.
The Lady Wildcats scored 41 points in the final two periods and held Stone County to just 11 to run away with a 58-42 win for the tournament championship.
“I told them at halftime that it was up to them and they came out on fire,” Kimble said of his team. “I am very proud of the effort of these ladies. They really believed in themselves and would not be denied.”
Trailing 31-17 when the third period started, GCHS outmatched the Tomcats 20-4 in the period to take a 2-point lead. They blew the game open in the final stanza with a 21-7 edge to put the game away.
GCHS did most of their damage in the paint, with senior Bre Brown leading the way with 18 points and eight rebounds. Junior Kat Garrett had three big 3-pointers in the game and finished with 13 points. She also had four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Junior Kelsey Mitchell added eight points and six rebounds, while senior Destiny Eubanks had seven points and a team-high four assists. Junior Serenity Blakely had six points and five rebounds and freshmen Reanna Moody and Lisa Johnson rounded out the scoring with two and four points, respectively.
As the tournament’s No. 2 seed, GCHS earned a first-round bye and then advanced to the championship game with a 62-53 win over Sumrall on Thursday. Eubanks and Garrett combined for 31 points in that win.
Cats roll to Round 2 with big win over Northeast Jones
Early foul trouble and difficulty getting shots to fall led to a slow start for the Lady Cats on Monday as they played hosts to the Lady Tigers of Northeast Jones in Round 1 of the MHSAA State Playoffs.
GCHS had seven fouls against them before NEJ was whistled for their first. The lopsided foul situation forced Kimble to go to his bench early and often and kept the game tight through the first two quarters. GCHS led 9-6 after the first period, but got a basket from freshman Lisa Johnson as time wound down in the second quarter to push the lead to 21-12 going into the locker room at intermission.
Kimble apparently had another good halftime talk with his team as the Lady Cats came out in the third period with a little higher defensive intensity. That attacking defensive style and a couple key 3-pointers by junior Kat Garrett helped change the complexion of the game and allowed GCHS to stretch the lead to 18 by the end of the third period. They kept up the smothering defense in the final stanza and cruised to a 42-21 final margin of victory, despite finishing the game with a 31 percent field goal percentage.
“Sometimes you have to find ways to win when you aren’t playing your best or you aren’t making baskets on the offensive end,” Kimble said. “Defense can make up for that and I thought we played well defensively.”
“I am very proud of the effort our team gave to get this win.”
Garrett led the scoring for GCHS with 12 points, including three big shots from beyond the arc. Johnson followed with 10 points and also pulled down six rebounds, led the team with four steals and also dished out two assists.
Junior Kelsie Mitchell was solid with six points, two assists and two rebounds. Her classmate, forward Serenity Blakely, didn’t score in the game, but was a disruptive force on defense and also had five rebounds. Senior Bre Brown, who is tied for third in class 4A for double-doubles on the year, was one made basket away from adding to her total as she finished with eight points and 12 rebounds despite missing a lot of time on the floor due to foul trouble.
With the win, Kimble’s squad improved to 24-6 on the season and earned the right to play host in their Round 2 matchup with Raymond this Friday.
Raymond punched its ticket to the second round with a 49-39 win over Bay High on Monday. The No. 2 seeded team out of Region 6-4A is 16-11 on the year is led by junior Zykeria Anderson (#2) and freshman Leah Sutton (#23). The duo accounts for 70 percent of their team’s scoring, with Anderson averaging 22.8 points per outing, while Sutton knocks down an average of 14.4. They also lead their team on the defensive end, combining for just under six steals per game. Anderson leads her team in 3-point shooting and has made 23 percent of her 124 attempts from behind the arc this year.
Kimble knows every school his team faces at this point in the season presents a strong challenge. He hopes to see the Lady Cats get off to a little better start on Friday and have a more consistent outing against the Lady Rangers. He also hopes the Wildcat fans will once again show up and show out as the Lady Cats play their final home game of the year.
“We have had great fan support through the tournament and against Northeast Jones,” Kimble said. “We are hoping for another big home crowd with a lot of energy this Friday as we host Raymond in the second round.”
Tipoff for Friday’s game is set for 6 p.m.
The winner will advance to the Elite 8 and a matchup with South Pike or Purvis on February 28 in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum. South Pike blitzed past Pass Christian in Round 1, while Purvis upended Quitman 41-36.