Olive Branch guard Mahogany Vaught (4) drives around Harrison Central's Jazzmun Holmes.
Myah Taylor watched, with tears in her eyes, as her team celebrated its win.
Olive Branch had just defeated Harrison Central 49-44 in the semifinals of the MHSAA Class 6A girls state championship Wednesday at the Mississippi Coliseum. But it did so for the majority of the second half without its star freshman guard, who leads the team in scoring.
Taylor went down with a suspected ankle injury midway through the third quarter and didn’t return. Olive Branch (27-6) quickly coughed up its nine-point lead without Taylor, but the team rallied around its injured star and pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“I told them in the huddle, ‘Y’all can be known as a team that can’t play without a point guard or be a team full of girls who know how to play the game and finish,’” Olive Branch coach Blake Jones said. “I said, ‘You have a decision to make. You can roll over and die and let Myah take the credit for being out of the game, or you can play for Myah.’”
Olive Branch will play Horn Lake in the Class 6A title game, likely without Taylor. Jones didn’t know all of the details, but said it was a “99 percent chance” she wouldn’t be ready to go by Saturday’s final. Taylor had to be carried off the court by Jones and teammate Savanna Geeslin after the game.
That means eighth-grader Mahogany Vaught will have to carry even more of the scoring weight. Vaught, who is the team’s second-leading scorer, came up huge in the second half with Taylor sidelined. She scored 12 of her 17 points in the second half, six of which came from the free throw line. During one stretch, Vaught hit two free throws and then made a basket to build a four-point lead.
“She scares all of us on the free throw lines at times because she’s so young,” Jones said. “She’s never been on the free throw line at this stage, in that stage of a game. But at that point, with Myah down, I said, ‘If we are going to get beat, it just wasn’t meant to be this year.’”
Dandy Dozen guard led Harrison Central (20-11) with 15 points and 11 rebounds.