Host girls ace their heart test with rally

By Gene Phelps / NEMS Daily Journal

BELMONT – Kossuth’s cat-quick point guard Kiki Gwyn scored on a layup with 1 minute, 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give her Lady Aggies a 16-point lead against rival Belmont.
The host team’s knees buckled, but they didn’t tumble.
Instead, the Lady Cardinals, who trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half Monday night, rallied to outscore Kossuth 26-5 and take a 54-49 comeback victory in their Division 1-3A shootout.
“I told them at halftime it wasn’t an X and O problem, it was a heart problem,” said Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom, who was tagged with a technical foul in first half. “We weren’t aggressive on the defensive end or the offensive end.”
Angela Allen, a 5-foot-9 junior guard/forward, scored 25 points to lead the Lady Cardinals. Of that point total, she scored 17 points from the free throw line, hitting on 17 of 20, including 12 of 14 in the second half.
She sealed the win by hitting 5 of 6 from the line in the final minute.
“We all stepped it up and played in the second half,” said a modest Allen. “We didn’t come out and play like we can in the first half.”
Allen believes her team’s aggressive zone press and trapping rattled the Lady Aggies in the fourth quarter.
“When we started pressing, we started clicking,” she said.
Sophomore guard Faith English used her defensive skills to tie the score at 47-47 with 3:27 remaining when she stole a pass intended for Kossuth’s Annaleigh Coleman and drove in for a layup.
“I wasn’t that far off her,” English said. “They kept throwing the ball to her. I was sagging then jumped in front of her and stole the ball. It wasn’t a great pass.
“All I could think of then was, ‘Don’t miss the layup.’”
A minute later, Kelsie Montgomery scored on a layup to give Belmont its first lead since the game’s early moments, 49-47.
“I saw a click in the girls in the second half,” Higginbottom said. “They decided, ‘We’re not going to lose this one.’ I saw a lot of heart. They never quit.”
Belmont (21-3, 9-1) and Ripley, who split this season in division play, will likely tie for first place.
However, Ripley would get the top seed in next week’s division tournament at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville because of a tiebreaker.
Kossuth (18-8, 6-4) was led by Coleman and Katie Garvin with 14 points apiece. Gwyn added 10.
Allen was the lone Lady Cardinal to score in double figures.

(B) Belmont 73, Kossuth 50
Alex Sparks scored 20 points to lead the Cardinals, who jumped out to an 18-5 lead in the first quarter and never trailed.

n Game summaries, Page 2B