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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Olive Branch take 6A title rematch vs. Horn Lake

Image and article from ClarionLedger.com
Olive Branch’s Mahogany Vaught (4) drives to the basket in Friday’s game against Horn Lake. Vaught finished with 7 points, including a big 3-pointer that sparked an 8-0 run.

In the midst of an 8-0 run late in the fourth quarter, all five Olive Branch players on the court slapped the floor in unison.

The stands, nearly filled to capacity, erupted.

In a rematch of last year's girls MHSAA Class 6A state championship, the Conquistadors defeated Horn Lake 50-40 on Friday, finishing with an exclamation point.

"We wanted to get the crowd on our side and get them into the game," sophomore forward Myah Leflore said. "We knew we were going to get the ball and we wanted to make a stop and win the game."

Last season, the Lady Quistors dropped four of five meetings to the Lady Eagles. This time, they served the Lady Eagles their first lost of the season.

Olive Branch (20-1), ranked No. 1 in The Clarion-Ledger's Super 10, stunted Horn Lake in transition by taking away open looks and forcing turnovers. Senior center Alexyse Thomas was the only Eagles player to finish in double-figures with 13 points.

"We weren't worried about a 20 or 30 point win. We knew that wasn't going to happen," Olive Branch coach Blake Jones said. "Scoring wasn't our No. 1 priority. Defense was, and that's where the floor slapping came from."

No. 2 Horn Lake (19-1) started out fast, prompting Jones to call a timeout after the Lady Quistors were down 7-0 early in the first quarter.

"I told the girls (during last year's semifinals against Harrison Central) to settle down and we went on a 5- or 6-0 run after that," the coach said. "I told them (Friday) to revert back to Harrison Central. They had to take a deep breath and calm down."

After the first quarter, the Lady Quistors wouldn't trail again.

Sophomore Dandy Dozen guard Myah Taylor had a game-high 18 points, which included an off-balance shot from half-court as time expired in the first half to put her team up 24-20.

"That was a big time shot by a big time player," Jones said. "Coming out (in the second half) with a four-point lead is a lot different than a one-point lead."

Her teammates felt the momentum shift in their favor.

"I thought she was going to make it," Leflore said. "That shot gave us confidence."
Leflore tallied eight points, while sophomore forward Teal Battle added 10.

At the entrance of Olive Branch's gym hangs the Lady Quistors 2014 runner-up banner, reminding the team of its goal to return to Jackson for a state title.

But it knows it'll have to get through Horn Lake, again.

"This isn't the state championship," Jones said. "This is another high rivalry game that we made it through.

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