Desoto County Sports

Alumni Charity Basketball Game is a winner for Olive Branch, Holly Springs

Photo: Olive Branch and Holly Springs players gather for a photo after the Olive Branch Alumni Charity Basketball Game on Saturday, July 6 in Olive Branch. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)

Jul 6, 2024 – Any thought that a basketball rivalry between Olive Branch and Holly Springs high schools had waned over the years was quickly put away Saturday night when alumni teams representing the two schools took to the court in an charity game in Olive Branch. The rivalry was alive and very well during the course of the evening.  

Olive Branch native and Super Bowl champion K.J. Wright again returned home to help put together the third Alumni Charity Basketball Game before a packed house at Charlie Bibbs Gymnasium.  The new twist this time was that alums from the two schools were facing each other for the first time. Previous games had alumni from Olive Branch only paired off against each other.  

There was a solid backing Saturday for both sides, with high intensity and trash talking, great plays at both ends. At the end of the evening, the Olive Branch women hit a late three-pointer plus another basket for a 32-30 victory, followed by the Holly Springs guys leaving with a 67-55 win over the alumni Conquistadors. 

The real winners from the evening were the students of the two representing schools, as Wright and his The Wright Way Foundation are splitting the proceeds from the evening between Olive Branch and Holly Springs.

KJ Wright speaks with fans before Saturday’s Alumni Charity Basketball game.

“Every dollar raised, we will write a check as we split it right down to Olive Branch and Holly Springs,” Wright said. “With what the turnout was like tonight, it is only right that we try to do this again next year.”

In the women’s game, Olive Branch held the advantage until the four-minute mark of the second half when Holly Springs tied the game at 26-26.  The Lady Bad Hawks took a 30-27 lead about two-and-a-half minutes later after a three-point shot.

But Olive Branch applied pressure defense and a late three-pointer from Kee Lipford, followed by the game-winning basket from Normanique Johnson provided the Lady Quistors with the victory.  

Johnson finished with 12 of the Lady Quistors’ 32 points and was named the game’s most valuable player.  

Normanique Johnson of Olive Branch receives her
Most Valuable Player trophy

“It feels great, especially with the game being close,” Johnson said. 

Star Walton and Ebony Taylor led Holly Springs with nine points each.  

Olive Branch controlled play in the first half of the men’s contest, taking a 22-15 lead after one quarter and 32-25 at halftime.  

But the Bad Hawks took over the second half and led 47-41 after three quarters and broke open an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining. Olive Branch closed the gap to 56-49 with five minutes left but Holly Springs regained control and pulled away for the 67-55 victory.  

DeQuan Smith erupted in the second half and finished with a game-high 32 points to lead Holly Springs in the win. Tray Boyd led Olive Branch in scoring with 18 points.  

Afterward, Wright said the night accomplished what he wanted it to do.  

“It was everything and more,” Wright said. “I’m so glad that the city came out, supported and showed so much love. It was competitive, it was fun, a lot of fellowship and it happened all for a good cause.”  

The family of DeJuan Malone-Davis is recognized during halftime of the men’s game. Malone-Davis, a former teammate of Wright, died late last December,

FALLEN TEAMMATE REMEMBERED AT HALFTIME: At halftime of the men’s game, a presentation was made to the family of DeJuan Malone-Davis, a former teammate of Wright’s who died in December 2023 at the age of 35.  

“Malone-Davis was my friend, my classmate who graduated in the year 2007,” Wright said. “He was actually raised in Holly Springs but he spent his senior year at Olive Branch High School. He was the reason this game actually happened.”

QUISTORS RECEIVE CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS: Another part of the evening was also at halftime of the men’s game. That was when members of the 2023-24 Conquistador boys’ basketball team came to the court to receive their MHSAA 6A state championship rings. The Quistors won the state championship in March with a 59-56 victory over Ridgeland in the finals.