Olive Branch coach Blake Jones waited until his team turned the corner towards their locker room to let out a celebratory yell.
"One more," Jones told the Lady Quistors.
For a second straight year, Olive Branch defeated Harrison Central on Wednesday night in the MHSAA Class 6A girls semifinals, downing the Red Rebelettes, 81-72, en route to a championship berth.
Olive Branch (32-1) hasn't lost to a team from Mississippi this season. With their entire starting five back from last year and the No. 1 ranking in the state, the Lady Quistors have been a favorite to make a repeat appearance in Saturday's title game, where they will face divisional rival Horn Lake.
Harrison Central made Olive Branch's path to the championship difficult, and that started with disrupting sophomore guard Myah Taylor.
The Dandy Dozen selection struggled from the field early and only scored three points in the first half. With 3:14 remaining in the third quarter, Taylor was sent to the bench after recording her fourth foul.
Up 58-53 heading into the final period of play, Jones pulled Taylor aside while an assistant coach drew up a game plan for the rest of the team.
Last year, Taylor watched Olive Branch win its semifinal game from the bench after sustaining an ankle injury that sidelined her from the championship round.
"I said 'Myah, you have one quarter that stands in your way between now and going to another state championship. You didn't get to play in that game last year. What can we do to get through this quarter and get you to that final game?' " Jones said. "She said 'I'm going to take over, coach,' and sure enough that's what she and Mahogany did together."
Taylor finished 11 points, five steals and three rebounds. Mahogany Vaught, a freshman who started for the Lady Quistors as an eighth-grader, had a game-high 24 points, including two 3-pointers in the third quarter: one to tie the game at 48-48 and a go-ahead bucket to give Olive Branch a 56-53 lead.
Despite finding its rhythm in the second half, containing Dandy Dozen guard Jazzmun Holmes and Philmecia Drakeford, who hit four 3-pointers, was difficult for Olive Branch.
Jones was ready to implement a 1-3-1 zone to contain the guards from the field. Instead, he relied on what's been working for his team all season.
"We wanted to face guard (Holmes) and once she gave it up, we wanted to put pressure on other players," Jones said. "We knew what she could do. After the half, I told my team it's do or die."
Holmes and Drakeford each recorded 20 points.
The Red Rebelettes had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after Adyn Strickland hit one of two free throws to cut Olive Branch's lead to 58-56, but an 11-2 run by the Lady Quistors wore down Harrison Central (26-8).
"We played hard, they battled. I felt that we forced a lot of turnovers but didn't capitalize," Harrison Central coach Nancy Ladner said.
Olive Branch will face a Horn Lake team it has already beaten three times this season and is looking to defend its 6A crown.
"The whole body of work last year was a foundation for what this year could be," Jones said. "To get mentally prepared for that game is to not change what we've been doing."
Mahogany Vaught, Olive Branch
The freshman guard scored a game-high 24 points, including two 3-pointers in the third quarter, and six rebounds for the Lady Quistors.
Top-ranked Olive Branch hasn't surrended a loss to a Mississippi program this season. The Lady Quistors sole defeat came at the hand of Ridgeway (Tenn.) in December.