Photos by Barry BurlesonCoach Kenzaki Jones gives instructions from the sideline.
Cori Bell (15) goes to the goal versus two Tigers Friday.
Hawks, Cards go to final four
Experience pays off come playoff time, and that was evident Friday night for the Holly Springs Hawks.
Three seniors, who have been through the post-season wars before, combined for 49 points in the Hawks' 76-45 rout of Noxubee County in the Class 3A quarter-finals. The game was played at Itawamba Community College in Fulton.
Derek Fountain led the way with 20. He was followed by Cori Bell with 17 and Tyhem Reaves with 12.
"I have a good group of guys who have been there," said Kenzaki Jones, in his first season at the helm of the Hawks. "They know how to win in these situations. Our experience paid off. We executed well."
The Tigers tried to slow down the pace of the game early. But the Hawks would have no part of it. They turned up the defensive heat and started cashing in buckets on the other end.
Bell and Fountain hit backto-back threes to make it 13-6 with 2:10 left in the first quarter. It was 17-7 at the end of the first.
The Hawks soared to a 12-point lead on Bell's jump shot with 42 seconds remaining in the opening half. Then Fountain finished the first 16 minutes by hitting a bucket, getting fouled and cashing in the free throw. It was 33-18 at the break.
"I knew they (Noxubee County) would keep battling us hard to start the second half," Jones said. "They got us in some foul trouble."
After the lead stretched to 18 on Reaves' three early in the third, the Tigers scratched back to a 10-point deficit with 2:53 left in the quarter. But Reaves and Bell hit shots late in the third to raise the lead to 21 points, at 56-35.
"We had a couple of big shots to end the quarter that solidified the lead going to the fourth," Jones said.
"I thought Cori (Bell) stepped up big-time in the win. He told me before the game, `Coach, it's my time.'" He made some really big shots, and his ball-handling experience helps so much."
The Hawks went on to win by 31 points.
Next up is a fourth straight trip to the state semi-finals. Holly High faces St. Andrew's Wednesday of this week at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Game-time is 12 noon. The Hawks defeated the Saints in last year's semi-finals and lost to them two years ago in the state title game.
"We're looking forward to the trip to Jackson and hopefully getting back to Oxford for the state championship game (scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. on the Ole Miss campus)," Jones said. "We know we have to play our best against a very good St. Andrew's team."
The other semi-final contest pits Velma Jackson, the defending state champion, against Houston.
Coach Jones, who took over as head coach of the Hawks a week before the season started, said the ride has been "wonderful."
"It's all about timing," he said. "I'm so glad to be here to be able to coach this team and be around these guys; it's a blessing.
"And the way they have bought in to what I want them to do, it speaks so much for the quality of these kids. That's made it much more enjoyable."
The Hawks last won a state championship 15 years ago, in 2005.