Photo: Players battle for the basketball in the first half of Wednesday’s MHSAA second-round playoff girls basketball game between Hernando at Olive Branch. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County Sports)
Olive Branch moved into the Elite Eight of MHSAA 6A girls basketball Wednesday night and will host Madison Central on Friday for the right to move into the Final Four on March 3 at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
The Lady Quistors held off the challenge of county rival Hernando 62-48 at Charlie Bibbs Gymnasium behind the balanced scoring performance of three players, led by Brynea Eason’s 18 points.
Meanwhile, Hernando also got 18 points from Andrea Manning and 13 from Abbey Harrison in their effort with the difference in the game coming in the second quarter. That was when Olive Branch broke away from an 11-11 first quarter tie and outscored the Lady Tigers 21-10 in the second quarter for a 32-21 advantage at halftime.
“We made a few adjustments and did the things we needed to do,” said Olive Branch coach Jason Thompson. “We figured out what they were trying to do and tried to stop it. Offensively, we just tried to be smart and take the opening of what they gave us.”
Hernando could only trade points with the Lady Quistors in the third quarter and Olive Branch won the fourth quarter 15-12 for the final 14-point margin. The Lady Quistors led by as much as 18 points late in the contest before the Lady Tigers scored six of the last eight points for the final result.
Amya Black led the Olive Branch offense in the first quarter with seven points, but Hernando got an answer by Zyqira Smith with all six of her points for the game coming in the opening eight minutes of play.
Coach Daniel Forbes’ Lady Tigers then went to forward Abbey Harrison in the second quarter, as she scored eight of her 13 points before halftime.
“She’s got a big future, I hope she enjoyed this year,” Forbes said of his post player. “I’m looking for big things from her next year.”
However, Eason hit on 10 of her 18 points in the second frame and got support from Rhema Pegues with nine of her 16 points all coming in the second to help fashion the 11-point bulge at the break.
It was Black’s turn again with a pair of three-pointers in the third quarter for the Lady Quistors, but Manning hit a pair of treys of her own and added a pair of baskets for a 10-point quarter for Hernando.
Manning scored five more points in the fourth quarter, but she was playing in foul trouble and finally gave up her fifth personal late in the contest.
Both Manning and Victoria Walton were saddled with foul trouble in the first half and Forbes felt that may have been a turning point in the contest.
“When your two best guards have three fouls and you have to bench them early on, it gets them cold and off-rhythm,” Forbes said. “I think the game was decided when they both picked up their third foul in the second quarter.”
Five separate Olive Branch players found the scoresheet in the final eight minutes to finish up the contest.
The top-ranked and defending MHSAA 6A state champion Lady Quistors host Madison Central on Friday at 6 p.m.
Madison Central advanced with a 43-41 victory over Starkville Wednesday to also move into the Elite Eight.
Olive Branch gets the home court for the contest, although both teams are number one seeds, because Olive Branch has the lower number region than does Madison Central, according to MHSAA rules.
GIRLS TOURNAMENT ETC.: The girls basketball season ended Wednesday for Center Hill in MHSAA 5A when Holmes County Central ousted the Lady Mustangs 62-29 at Lexington.
Northpoint Christian learned Wednesday it will play Goodpasture Christian on Friday in the TSSAA Division II-A girls’ sub-state contest at Northpoint. Game time is 6 p.m.
Goodpasture defeated Silverdale Academy 46-38 Wednesday to reach the sub-state contest. Friday’s winner heads to Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee March 4 for the state semifinals.