By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
BELMONT – Anna Brooke Page didn’t relish her performance on Monday night.
The 5-foot-11 post player scored a game-high 23 points, including key baskets at critical junctures, and grabbed a game-clinching rebound in the closing seconds of Belmont’s 57-54 victory over Ripley in the MHSAA Class 3A North Tournament championship game.
“It was a tough game, but we played good together as a team,” Page said.
Page’s ability to score every time she touched the ball proved to be a deciding factor against Ripley. The Lady Tigers mounted a serious comeback in the second half after trailing 36-26 at halftime, but Page was there each time to preserve the Belmont lead.
Case in point: Ripley pulled to within four, 49-45, with 5:45 to go in the game; Page answered to put Belmont up six.
Page scored seven points in the final period.
“She really knows how to get herself, and where to get herself, in a position to score, and she can finish around the goal so well,” said Ripley coach Katie Bates, whose team has now lost all four games this season against its division opponent.
“She’s kind of deceiving-looking; you wouldn’t think that she’d be that strong. But she finishes well when she gets fouled. She takes some licks down there and she keeps going.
“If we ever find a way to stop her, we’ll be all right.”
Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom said Pagedeveloped her ability to score in traffic through practice drills where she faces a double- and triple-team.
Her ability was on full display in the first half, as she scored 14 points.
But Page said she doesn’t feel the pressure to have to score all the time for her team to win.
“We just enjoy each game and just try to play together,” she said.
Leslie Robinson scored all her 11 points in the first half, including nailing two treys to highlight a 22-6 Belmont run that proved critical in the second half when Ripley would outscore Belmont 28-21.
Belmont (31-1), the North’s No. 1 seed, faces Franklin County in Saturday’s 1 p.m. Class 3A state tournament semifinal game in Jackson.
Shunquest Howell led Ripley (22-9) with 15 points, while LaNaesha Cox and Jayla Chills each had 13.
Ripley, the North’s second seed, will play Choctaw Central in the other 3A state semifinal, at 6:30 Saturday night.