Jefferson County wins in quarterfinals; Natchez postponed

Published 12:01 am Friday, March 6, 2015

JACKSON — By the time Jefferson County arrived to play in the Mississippi Coliseum, the word was out about the Lady Tigers.

In order to stop Jefferson County, opponents are going to have to focus on the Lady Tigers two dominant post players — Antrell Gaines and Diamond Smith. That’s what Ruleville Central did Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. However, it wouldn’t prevent Jefferson County from punching a ticket to the MHSAA Class 3A semifinals by showcasing their versatility in a 52-49 win.

“(Ruleville) can play,” Jefferson County head coach Flora McKnight said. “But we outplayed them. Good things happen when you outhustle and outwork your opponent.”

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Ruleville doubled Gaines and Smith in the post, freeing up guards ReKeijah Williams and Kailyn Hammett to get open looks. Hammett, who led the team with 21 points, was able to knock down those shots, thanks to a strategic practice the team had Wednesday afternoon. Alcorn State University allowed the girls team to come and practice on the Braves floor one day prior to the playoff game.

“The benefits of that were that we got to get used to an open court,” McKnight said. “We tend to think those courts are bigger, but it’s not. It’s just a whole lot of open space. Getting to practice on that helped a lot.”

As for the game, it was a back-and-forth affair, but Jefferson County assistant coach Marcus Walton said the team was able to make the plays necessary to pull away in the fourth quarter.

“No lead was bigger than four or five points in the game,” Walton said. “We showed great resiliency, and stayed together as a team. This is a great team win.”

Gaines scored 14 points, Williams provided seven and Smith was held to six points in the Lady Tigers win.

Jefferson County will play Belmont at 4 p.m. Monday in the semifinals of the state tournament.

Natchez vs. Lanier postponed

NATCHEZ — The weather prevented the Lady Bulldogs from continuing to defend their crown Thursday afternoon.

Because of the road conditions, decisions were made to postpone Natchez High School’s encounter against Lanier High School until 9 a.m. Saturday.

Lanier upset Oxford High School in the previous round, earning an opportunity to play Natchez in the quarterfinals of the MHSAA Class 5A tournament.

Natchez head coach Alphaka Moore said her team needs to be mentally ready, and needs to avoid taking (15-12) Lanier lightly.

“We’re going to leave Friday and try to get to the gym as early as we can Saturday,” Moore said. “We have to get the right mindset, and not think about how early in the morning it is.”