Hawks win North, going for third straight State title
The Holly High Hawks, two-time defending state champs, took their first step on their next journey down I-55 to The Big House Tuesday of last week by blasting Booneville 93-33 at home.
The play-in game in Class 3A North State was basically over after one quarter. The high-flying Hawks led 32-5. It was 51-14 at the half and they went on to win by 60 points.
Twelve Hawks scored for head coach Naylond Hayes. Leading the explosion were Antonio Isom with 18 points, Brandon Ayers with 13, Clevin Hannah with 12 and Justin LeSueur with 11.
Holly High vs. Aberdeen
Next up, the Hawks moved their hardwood show to Ripley for the Final Eight of North State competition, and their first opponent was the Aberdeen Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs had a 22-9 record and were showing a lot of speed when they hit the floor in their game with the Hawks. The rebounding and ball movement were furious on both sides. And their initial speed was allowing them to keep pace with Holly High throughout the first half. The difference was a mere triple at intermission (29-26).
The Hawks had built a 13-point lead in the first half but saw it diminish. They came off the break burning rubber. In no time they had recaptured the double-digit lead. Although Clevin Hannah got into foul trouble and had to sit for over a quarter, things began to fall apart for Aberdeen. Their big man, Antonio Walker, was whistled for a hard foul and then incurred the wrath of the officials which resulted in his leaving the game.
The Hawks also lost a player to fouls, Daniel Burton, but by then the Bulldogs fate had been sealed. Hannah re-entered the game and ran his total to 17 by the end. Jemorris Wilkes hit for 13, and Brandon Ayers had 11.
Walker led scoring for Aberdeen with 15.
The final score was 67-40.
Holly Springs vs. Ripley
The game which everyone had awaited was the one on Friday between the Ripley Tigers and the Holly High Hawks. State polls had rated these teams 1 (Hawks) and 2 (Tigers) in Class 3A prior to their meeting in the semis.
If the Hawks needed a litmus test before their trip down the big road to Jackson, this was it. The Hawks came out in a swift run and posted 10 unanswered points before the Tigers got their claws unsheathed. But after they did, it was on.
At the pace at which this game was played one could imagine a sackful of fouls, however, there were just 12 fouls between the two in the first half. When the first frame ended the score was tied 16-16. The Hawks bounced back and stood seven up at intermission with a 34-27.
Ripley came out of the locker room and took their first lead on a trey by Quin Williamson.
For the duration of the third quarter it was point for point. But Ripleys biggest Tiger, 68 center Derrick Bails, was proving to be an obstacle for the Hawks. But it didnt take long for the Hawks little giant, 511 Clevin Hannah, to come up with the remedy. He started an onslaught on the Ripleys big men in their post positions and made them over commit trying to stop his forays into their territory.
A couple of Tigers went the way of the foul and Hannah netted 37 points to pull out the squeaker for the Hawks. When the smoke cleared, the Hawks had dodged a big one and got away with the 57-55 win.
Clifton Rayford rounded out the double-digit scoring for the victors with 10.
Williamson had 15 for Ripley, as did Rashad Conner. Buck Johnson added 12.
Holly High vs. Nettleton
The win moved the Hawks into the final game with the Nettleton Tigers on Saturday night. One of the Tigers assistant coaches had remarked before the game that their main goal was to keep the Hawks from beating them by 50 points. But both knew that this was the last stop on the the well traveled road to The Big House.
The score was knotted at 16 apiece after the first frame. In the second, the Hawks were showing signs of achieving ball control, but the Tigers were not wilting.
The Hawks had an eight-point lead at intermission and grabbed their biggest lead at 13 in the third.
The Tigers were suffering from foul trouble but they kept up the pressure. However, just like the previous night, no one found the button to control Hannah. He again took charge of the game and went on to plaster the nylon with 37 points before he was finished. Jemorris Wilks hit for 10 in the game that would send the 33-1 Hawks to Jackson, where they will seek their third straight crown.
The final score was 64-50.
Begundi Walton led Nettleton with 16. Jeremy Word and Jermandy Jackson had 14 and 12, respectively.
The Hawks, who receive a bye, will face the Collins-Ripley winner on Wednesday, March 8, at 2:30 p.m. in the Class 3A semi-finals. The championship game will be played Saturday, March 11, at 2:30 p.m. in Mississippi Coliseum.
The three teams on the opposite side of the bracket are Nettleton, Hazlehurst and Yazoo County.
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