By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Chris Higginbottom and his Lady Cardinals team did a remarkable job just to return to the MHSAA Class 3A state semifinals.
The defending champions still made it to Jackson despite only having two players with significant varsity game experience entering the season.
Unfortunately for Higginbottom and Co., their season would end at the hands of Choctaw Central in Friday afternoon’s semifinal game at the Mississippi Coliseum.
The Lady Warriors (31-3) never trailed and won going away, 61-49, in front of 3,000 fans.
“This group of girls had the desire and heart to get back down here,” Higginbottom said at the post-game press conference. “They came together at the right time.
“We weren’t in the preseason pickings and weren’t given that much credit. So, I’m very proud of the girls and what they have accomplished.”
Angelia Allen led the Lady Cardinals (26-7) with a game-high 23 points, going 15 of 18 from the free-throw line, and Leslie Robinson and Kelsie Montgomery chipped in 11 and 10, respectively.
Mildred Jimmie scored a team-high 16 and Anissa Allen and Kristen Dixon each had 11 for the Lady Warriors, who led 26-22 at halftime.
The Lady Cardinals were able to pull even on three different occasions in the first quarter, but that was the closest they came to taking the lead.
The Lady Warriors seemed to thrive against Belmont’s full-court pressure, getting easy looks inside as they beat the press. The Lady Warriors went on an 11-3 run to start the third quarter and built a double-digit lead less than two minutes into the period.
“You gotta give credit to Choctaw Central,” Higginbottom said about how the Lady Warriors maneuvered around his team’s press. “That’s just what we do and that’s how we got down here, so I don’t have any regrets of the defense we played against them. … There were just a few times we had miscommunication on the floor and didn’t do our job communicating, and that’s how those layups took place.”