JACKSON — Nobody expected Northwest Rankin to be in the 6A final.
Well, no one outside the Northwest Rankin locker room.
Behind a fast start along with the play of Brendan Brown and LeVionne Lindsey the Cougars held off Horn Lake 58-46 in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 6A Basketball playoffs on Wednesday night at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Northwest Rankin (25-8) will face rival Brandon for the Class 6A State Championship on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
“We always preach to the guys to throw the first punch and hit them in the mouth and get a lead. Brendan Brown came up and got a lot of big buckets and was big for us tonight,” said Northwest Rankin coach Joshua Luckett. “That’s my first time being on the coliseum floor and that felt like the longest game ever.”
The Cougars couldn’t have asked for a better start as Northwest Rankin jumped out to a 13-1 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Northwest Rankin extended their lead to 17-3 early, but Horn Lake began chipping back as the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead down to 17-10 and eventually ended the first quarter on a 9-5 run to cut the Cougars lead down to 27-21 at halftime.
The third quarter was back and forth that saw Northwest Rankin holding a 37-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final frame it was back and forth with Horn Lake cutting the Northwest Rankin down to two points at 48-46 after John Randle hit one of two free throws.
In the final 2:32 of the game Horn Lake was held without a field goal and Brown scored seven of the final nine points for Northwest Rankin, including hitting a pair of free throws with 59 seconds left to seal the game.
Brown, an East Mississippi CC football signee, finished with a game-high 29 points to lead the Cougars.
“Coach always preached being locked in before the game and come out ready to play and that’s what we did,” Brown said. “We feel like no one can stop us and we make this team go. Now we’re playing for state and can’t wait I’m so excited.”
Lindsey added nine points for Northwest Rankin.
“That was a really good team, I knew they were going to make runs and we just found ways to answer,” Luckett said. “For us we stayed the course. This season was big house or bust after the last couple years coming short, so happy for the opportunity to for gold ball Saturday.”
Connor Simms had 14 points to lead Horn Lake, while Kylen Pernell added nine points for the Eagles (30-2).
“They came out and played and they beat us up and were more physical than us,” said Horn Lake coach Chico Potts. “That first quarter was bad, but we kept chipping away and then we’d turn the ball over. Can’t that in games like this.”
Booneville 66, Morton 50
Landon Brown had 20 points as the Blue Devils raced past the Panthers in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs.
Booneville (29-2), the defending Class 3A state champions, will face SE Lauderdale for the Class 3A State Championship on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Dicorian McGee added 15 points for the Blue Devils.
Jayden Bowie had 20 points to lead Morton, while Delion Evans added 13 points for the Panthers (22-6).
Brandon 77, Olive Branch 49
Isaiah Davis scored a game-high 22 points as the Bulldogs raced past the Conquistadors in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
Brandon (25-7) will face rival Northwest Rankin for the Class 6A State Championship on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Marcel Bridges added 17 points and Isaiah Smith chipped in 14 points for the Bulldogs.
Jay Tyler had 13 points to lead Olive Branch, while Javion Stephen added 12 points for the Conquistadors (25-6).
SE Lauderdale 63, Byhalia 60 (OT)
Elliot Tulip scored 18 points as the Tigers were able to hold off the Indians in overtime in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs.
SE Lauderdale (23-4) will face Booneville for the Class 3A State Championship on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Blue Devils beat the Tigers in the 3A state title game last season.
Demondre Graham added 14 points for SE Lauderdale and hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left to seal the game for the Tigers.
Kanaan Deberry had a game-high 21 points to lead Byhalia, while Aaron Green and Mario King added 13 points each for the Indians (18-12).
Tupelo 56, Biloxi 45
Mikayla Riley poured in a game-high 26 points as the Lady Golden Wave got past the Lady Indians in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
Tupelo (26-3) will play Germantown for the Class 6A State Championship on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Audria Houston added 17 points for the Lady Golden Wave.
Shaneal Corpuz had 22 points to lead Biloxi (25-7).
Germantown 46, Harrison Central 35
Texas signee Madison Booker had a game-high 22 points as the Lady Mavericks got past the red Rebelettes in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
Germantown (28-2) will face the Tupelo for the Class 6A State Championship on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Alana Rouser added eight points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Mavericks.
Larissa Hubbard had seven points to lead Harrison Central, while Anaisha Carriere added six points for the Red Rebelettes (20-14).
Booneville 34, Morton 30
Sa’Niyah Cook scored a game-high 18 points as the Lady Blue Devils held off the Lady Panthers in a low scoring defensive slugfest in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs.
Booneville (29-3), the defending Class 3A state champions, will play Forest for the Class 3A State Championship on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Kaylee Johnson and Hallie Burns each had six points for Booneville.
Makiya Sparkman had 14 points to lead Morton, while Andrea Johnson added eight points for the Lady Panthers (25-4).
Forest 47, Kossuth 39
Mikayla Holifield had a game-high 20 points as the Lady Bearcats got past the Lady Aggies in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs.
Forest (26-6) will face Booneville for the Class 3A State Championship on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Kelviana Parhm added 13 points for the Lady Bearcats.
Dacy Marsh had 18 points to lead Kossuth, while Anna Greene added seven points for the Lady Aggies (18-11).