Post-season basketball tournament action kicked into high gear Tuesday night, as first round games brought some blowouts, but also some tight finishes in MHSAA 6A-1, 6A-2, 5A-1, TSSAA West Region girls and MAIS playoff action.
There was nothing closer than Rashe France’s heroics in overtime for the Southaven boys, however, as his desperation heave from near half court as time expired in overtime gave the Chargers a 68-67 win over Horn Lake in the semifinals of the MHSAA 6A-1 tournament at Olive Branch Tuesday night.
Horn Lake held a 34-28 at halftime and led 48-45 after three quarters before Southaven rallied to tie the contest at 59-all at the end of regulation.
France ended the game with 19 points to lead the Chargers. Jitaurious Gordon again led Horn Lake, finishing the contest with a game-high 29 points.
The second semifinal also had excitement at the end, but DeSoto Central couldn’t quite catch up with the tournament’s number-one seed Olive Branch, which held on to advance with a 74-70 victory.
Coach Eric Rombaugh of the Quistors admonished his team after the game to be ready for another stiff challenge in the division tournament finals from Southaven Friday night.
“We picked a heck of a night to not show up,” Rombaugh said. “If you could have picked a perfect storm for DeSoto Central tonight, that was it. We are not going to come out here and beat people just because we’re Olive Branch. These boys have to figure out that they have to come out here to play every single night, no matter who the opponent is.”
DeSoto Central coach William Bentley believes his Jaguars, led by its lone senior Trae Burcham, may be playing their best basketball right now.
‘It’s been a mountain we’ve been climbing,” Bentley said. “We are down to a core group of guys right now and they compete so hard and they want it so bad. I really think we are playing our best basketball of the season right now.”
Burcham led all scorers with 25 points on the night, followed by Jaylan Bales with 14 for DeSoto Central.
D.J. Jeffries, who was awarded a game ball for achieving 1,000 career points before the game, led Olive Branch with 20. Kelvin Allen scored 19 and Cameron Pleas added 11 before he was ejected from the game in its final minutes for retaliating against a DeSoto Central player who committed a foul. Free throws after the technical fouls brought the Jaguars to within three points, breathing new life into their upset attempt.
There was no such upset threat for two girls' teams expected to be among the contenders for state championships in their respective state associations.
Olive Branch, challenged only by Starkville in the most recent polls, had little trouble in a 90-39 victory over DeSoto Central.
Myah Taylor, regarded as Mississippi’s top girls’ player, gave a 26-point supporting role performance to Mahogany Vaught’s game-high 28 points. A’mya Washington led DeSoto Central with 15 points.
“They let me know that they were real excited about the magnitude of what’s going on, because we had a full week off,” said Olive Branch coach Jason Thompson. “We didn’t have to work a lot of kinks out.”
Over in Southaven, the defending TSSAA Division II-A state champion Northpoint Christian Lady Trojans started their West Regional play with an easy 66-38 victory over St. George’s of Collierville, Tenn.
“I thought we shared the ball pretty well and shot it well,” said Northpoint coach Barry Gray. “We showed a lot of energy and everybody got to play. Now we have to refocus on the details of the game and work on those details.”
Ashtyn Baker was the game’s leading point getter with 21 points, Jade Wells scored 13 and Lindsey Whiteside added 10.
In other Tuesday action, Horn Lake held off Southaven in MHSAA 6A-1 girls’ semi-final play 36-35 with 12 points each from Ericka Richardson and Takendra Harris. Erica Jones paced Southaven with a game-high 14.
Hernando fell short in both boys and girls games of MHSAA 6A-2 action at Columbus. The Hernando girls were dropped by Columbus 46-33 and the boys lost to Tupelo 62-43.
MHSAA 5A-1 boys results from Clarksdale Tuesday night had Clarksdale knock off Center Hill 60-51 and Lake Cormorant stop Lewisburg 71-58.
Center Hill held off Lewisburg 44-41 in semi-final girls’ division action, as Danielle Hopkins led the Lady Mustangs with 20 points, while Clarksdale topped Lake Cormorant 58-44.
In MAIS regional play, the Magnolia Heights boys lost to Oak Forest Academy 53-40 with Tanner Woods scoring 16 points for the Chiefs.
The Magnolia Heights girls won their game over Lamar 61-25 led by Lindley Gaines with 17 points and Hannah Gaines with 12.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.