Led by Kelvin Allen’s 27 points and D.J. Jeffries’ 20 points, the Olive Branch Conquistadors advanced to the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A state championship game Tuesday night with a convincing 71-50 victory over the Callaway Chargers at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
With the win, Olive Branch will play either Forest Hill or Canton Friday, March 9 at 8 p.m. in the state championship game at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Allen led the way for the 26-4 Conquistadors with 27 points and got solid support from Jeffries, whose 20 points became the only Olive Branch players in double figures.
At the same time, the Olive Branch defense held Callaway’s leading scorer Deshun Ruffin to just nine points. Ruffin, only a freshman, had averaged 19 points a game through 26 games this year.
Ahmad Anthony and Deonte’ Spencer were the Chargers’ leading scorers. Each finished with 11 points each.
Olive Branch staked itself to a 24-11 lead after one quarter of play.
“It’s important for us to get out to a good start all of the time,” said Olive Branch coach Eric Rombaugh. “We concentrate on the first five possessions. We needed five stops and five scores and we almost got it. When we get a lead, the other team has to change their game plan.”
But Callaway came back and outscored Olive Branch by an 18-12 margin to cut the Olive Branch lead to 36-29 at intermission.
“They (Callaway) started making plays,” said Rombaugh. “They set a high ball screen and we didn’t rotate very well and they got a three back-to-back. They made some shots that quarter.”
The Olive Branch defense cranked itself up in the third quarter, holding the Chargers to only five points as the Quistors roared out from halftime to a 53-34 advantage going into the final eight minutes of action.
“We said we wanted to come out in the third quarter like we started the game,” Rombaugh said. “We got some stops and got some scores. We had some mismatches, so it was a matter of being able to take advantage of the mismatches.”
Joe Cooper’s free throw with 4:58 remaining gave the Quistors its biggest lead of the game at 64-36 before substitutes entered the game and finished out the contest.
“We’re ready,” Rombaugh said about being in the state finals. “It’s been a long year since getting put out last year. Our goal was to make it to the finals.”
Rombaugh referred to his team's ouster in the 6A quarterfinals by Brandon in last year's state tournament.
Jeffries echoed the thoughts of his teammates about the championship contest ahead.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Jeffries. “It’s the first time in my high school career, so we’re just trying to get there and win it.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times Tribune.