Photo: All eyes look upward as Zahir Gutierrez of Olive Branch drains one of this trio of three-pointers in the final quarter of a 60-56 Quistors win at Center Hill, on Friday, Jan. 26. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Both Olive Branch Conquistadors and Center Hill Lady Mustangs protected their first-place standing in Region 1-6A basketball after victories Friday night.
OLIVE BRANCH BOYS 60, CENTER HILL 56
The Conquistadors stayed unbeaten in 1-6A but had to hold on for their four-point victory Friday night. Trey Wall’s 20-point effort led the Quistors but Zahir Guttierez added a trio of three-pointers to ward off a last quarter charge from the Mustangs.
“This is what rivalries are about, take records and throw them out the window,” Olive Branch coach Eric Rombaugh said. “You could take everything, throw it out the window, and you know it’s gonna be a game, right?”
Rombaugh has seen several exciting finishes in his time coaching the Quistors, so he might have been a bit nervous as Center Hill made their fourth quarter threat, before senior guard Gutierrez came through from long range.
“They hit some shots and then we hit some shots at the end,” Rombaugh said. “I think Zahir (Gutierrez) hit some big threes and it really, really saved us.”
It was Wall’s offense that got the Conquistadors going in the first half. Wall scored 11 first-half points, six in the first quarter, that staked Olive Branch to its 29-19 halftime lead. Jaidyn Rankins scored 10 of the Mustangs’ 19 first-half points.
“Trey sets the tone for us kind of emotionally,” said Rombaugh. “We do a good job of feeding off him because he’s nonstop energy. Like, you’ll never know if we’re up 20 or down 20 with him, it’s exactly the same way every time and he brings the energy and brings toughness that the other guys have no choice but to match it.”
Olive Branch kept the 10-point lead into the third quarter until Center Hill started their comeback. Jhordan Chaffin played a key role in that when he drained a long-range three to get the Mustangs within 36-31 with three minutes left in the period. After being held scoreless in the first half, Chaffin scored nine in the quarter and finished the night with 12 points.
But entering the fourth quarter, is when the Quistors, and Gutierrez in particular, arose to the challenge. Gutierrez netted four treys in the second half and three straight in the fourth quarter, to answer what Rombaugh said was a frustrating first half for him.
“I think he missed three straight threes in the first quarter, and he was frustrated,” Rombaugh said. “He’s one of those shooters that have a real short memory so he doesn’t ever remember the last shot he took.”
And while Rankins again made his presence known in the fourth quarter with six of his 16 points for the game for Center Hill, it wasn’t enough as the Conquistadors left with the 60-56, the second straight in the eastern DeSoto County boys’ basketball rivalry this year.
With the win, Olive Branch remains without a loss in the 1-6A standings and Center Hill joins Lake Cormorant with two region losses..
CENTER HILL GIRLS 44, OLIVE BRANCH 24
In Emily Owens’ six seasons as Center Hill girls’ basketball coach, she certainly knows about the intense rivalry between her school and Olive Branch. Many times the Lady Mustangs were on the wrong side of the scoreboard, but the tide has turned and wins like Friday’s victory are always worth savoring.
“This is always a big win,” Owens said. “And you know of course there’s the crosstown rivalry. The girls were ready to play, but you could tell we’ve had a week off with this snow and our shooting didn’t look so great. We played through that and didn’t get frustrated.
It was a low-scoring affair from both teams as Madison Hughes led Center Hill with nine points. Chloe Dorsey led Olive Branch with seven and the Lady Quistors’ top player, Brianna Black, failed to score in the game.
In fact the layoff due to the snow apparently affected an Olive Branch team that could not sink a field goal until about 40 seconds were left in the third quarter, when Dorsey scored from inside for her team’s first basket of the contest.
“I expected conditioning to be an issue,” Owens explained about how the time off might affect her team. “But it was more shooting, you could just tell that they hadn’t been putting up as many shots for the past week. And so things that typically are gonna go in are just not going in this week.”
There’ve been a number of players who have paced the attack for Center Hill this season, but Hughes continues to always be around the top of the list. Owens believes Hughes is a special player.
“If she’s not hitting from the three-point line, she’s gonna get points off rebounds and put backs,” Owens explained. “I can put her in any position depending on who’s defending her and she’s gonna find a way to score or to help us, whether it’s points or rebounds.”
In addition to Hughes, Janiya Rankins and Kennedy Hulbert each scored seven points for Center Hill.
South Panola, unbeaten in Region 1-6A, remains the target for the top seed into the post-season tournament, but Center Hill is close behind in second with one loss. Center Hill has to get past Lake Cormorant on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in their next game, but then South Panola is next on the schedule on Thursday, Feb. 2.
Olive Branch is set to finish a stretch of three games in three nights when they take the home floor as East Side High on Saturday, Jan. 27, beginning at 6 p.m. The Lady Quistors beat Lake Cormorant 59-40 on Thursday night.
Both boys and girls teams Saturday will again wear their East Side High uniforms and this year take on Byhalia, which will be wearing uniforms from Henry High, another African-American high school. The annual East Side High reunion event is now an introduction to Black History Month, as well as a reunion for former students of East Side, which is now Olive Branch Intermediate School.
DeSoto County Scoreboard
Friday, Jan. 26
Prep boys basketball
Lake Cormorant 60, South Panola 45
Olive Branch 60, Center Hill 56
Horn Lake 64, DeSoto Central 40
- Horn Lake scoring: Jason Edwards (16), Jordan Simmons (12)
- DeSoto Central scoring: Josh Jackson (14), Jacob Curtis (10)
Southaven 83, Hernando 58
St. George’s 52, Northpoint Christian 44
- Northpoint scoring: Ayden Kelly (23), Myles Colom (10)
Prep boys soccer
Lake Cormorant 5, South Panola 1
Center Hill 3, Olive Branch 0
Southaven 2, Horn Lake 0
Prep girls basketball
South Panola 75, Lake Cormorant 42
Center Hill 44, Olive Branch 24
DeSoto Central 44, Horn Lake 28
- DeSoto Central scoring: Londen Armstrong (14), Jamaiya Hasley (13)
- Horn Lake scoring: Kalia Pernell (9)
Southaven at Hernando
Northpoint Christian 56, St. George’s 37
- Northpoint scoring: Lillie Milligan (15), Kathy Beach (14)
Prep girls soccer
South Panola 3, Lake Cormorant 2
Olive Branch 3, Center Hill 1
Southaven 1, Horn Lake 0 (PKs)