By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Franklin County coach Charles S. Moore thought that Saturday afternoon’s MHSAA Class 3A semifinal game against Belmont would be decided up top rather than down low.
He turned out to be right.
With stellar post players on both teams, it was Belmont’s guards making the most plays, leading the Lady Cardinals to a 70-63 victory over Belmont.
“We knew they would play us man, but I didn’t think that they would play us straight up,” Moore said. “When they (Belmont) started sagging – which we thought they would do – we talked to our guards and knew we had to drive and hit some big shots.
“I actually thought it would come down to our guards versus their guards more than the post play.”
Belmont star post player Anna Brooke Page scored 17 points, but it was senior guard Zoe Hammock stealing the spotlight. She scored a game-high 24 points, as she knocked down five 3s and made nine free throws.
“I felt like they did a great job,” Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said of his guards, Mallory Torrence (9 points), Leslie Robinson (8 points) and Hammock. “In the first quarter, we handled their pressure. We got the ball down (the court) and didn’t have any turnovers.”
That was evident by Hammock hitting three 3s and Belmont leading by as many as 14 points in the opening quarter. The Lady Cardinals were up 22-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Things would get drastically worse for Belmont, as the Lady Dawgs outscored the North Tournament champions 27-10 in period No. 2.
“In the second quarter, we didn’t attack like we were (doing); we weren’t aggressive,” Higginbottom said.
Trailing 36-32 at halftime, the Lady Cardinals would regroup in the second half to outscore the Lady Dawgs 38-27 the rest of the way.
“In the third and fourth quarter, we protected the basketball,” Higginbottom said. “We took care of it.”
The Belmont coach also pointed out his team’s 12-of-15 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter to seal the win and allow for his team to advance to Friday’s 1 p.m. state championship game at the Mississippi Coliseum.