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Brookhaven Academy girls capture South State AA title

RAYMOND – Overcoming a cold shooting performance and anupset-minded crew of Lady Bobcats from Presbyterian ChristianSchool, the Brookhaven Academy Lady Cougars captured the MPSA SouthState AA Tournament Saturday, posting a 44-40 comeback victory.Directing the triumph were guard Mallory Logan with 12 points andcenter Anna Gatlin with 11.

The Lady Cougars (35-1) beat the Lady Bobcats (31-7) fromHattiesburg for the fourth time this season. It was a rematch oflast Saturday night’s District 4-AA finals which Brookhaven won40-20.

The Lady Cougars and Lady Bobcats will be seeded 1-2 out of theSouth in this week’s AA state tournament which starts Tuesday inBA’s John R. Gray Gymnasium. Simpson County beat CentrevilleAcademy 55-48 in Saturday’s consolation game and both teams alsoadvance to the state tourney.

Brookhaven Academy head coach Barry Gray was relieved to escapethe Central Hinds gymnasium with a hard-fought victory. His teamwas in early foul trouble, shot a cold 38 percent from the field,made just 14 of 25 free throws and was outrebounded 27-16.

“It was a war out there,” said Gray. “That was a game where ittook every person on our team to win. We wore (Lady Bobcats) downin the second half. It got a lot more physical and rougher in thethird quarter.”

Trailing 21-19 at halftime, Gray encouraged his Lady Cougars toplay harder in the second half. As thunder storms rumbled acrossthe dark sky, they raised the defensive pressure inside thegym.

The Lady Cougars, defending state champions, took their firstlead since early in the game when guard Lauren Smith swished a treyfrom the corner, making it 22-21. Another trey by Smith and 2 freethrows by Logan increased the margin to 4 points, 32-28 with 1:16left in the third quarter, sending the BA fans into a frenzy.

Logan started the final frame with a free throw and a drivinglayup off a turnover, pushing the lead to 35-30 and 6:13 left toplay. She led her team in rebounding with 7 boards. Guard KelliByrd, despite early foul trouble, had 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

“We knew the game would be tight,” said Byrd. “The refereescalled it pretty close.”

Byrd compared winning South State to reaching the crest of amountain. “We are over the first hill. We still have two more hillsto climb,” meaning the state tournament and the overall statetournament.

The Lady Bobcats, coached by Missy Bilderback, were directed by5-9 junior Meredith Campbell’s game-high 20 points. Whitney Lee ledPCS on the backboards with 8 rebounds.

When Jessie Altman scored on a short jumper with 3:27 left toplay, the Lady Cougars owned a 7-point, 39-32 lead. Logan sankanother driving layup and Gatlin cashed in a free throw, giving BAa 42-34 advantage with 1:18 left to play.

Byrd, Gatlin and Smith were named to the all-tournamentteam.