Neshoba Central's Andria Carter (32) drives against Hattiesburg during MHSAA 5A Girls quarterfinal action held Friday March 3 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Neshoba Central's Andria Carter (32) drives against Hattiesburg during MHSAA 5A Girls quarterfinal action held Friday March 3 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
JACKSON - The Neshoba Central Lady Rockets advanced to the semifinals round of the Girls State Class 5A state basketball tournament with a 54-43 victory over Hattiesburg Friday at the Mississippi Coliseum.
    The Lady Rockets, now 16-10 on the season, faced a familiar opponent Tuesday in the semifinals in the Lanier Lady Bulldogs. It was to be the fourth meeting between the two region foes. Lanier won the two regular season meetings. Neshoba Central defeated the Lady Bulldogs 40-28 in the district tournament finals that was played at Neshoba Central.

While Coach Fred Morris pondered how the Lady Rockets handle Lanier, which advanced to the semifinals with a win over South Jones, he enjoyed the Lady Rockets’ first appearance in the state semifinals in recent memories.

“It was my most fulfilling moment as a coach and a player,” Morris said. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how we are doing it. We are playing unbelievable defense and we are shooting well. And now we are playing Lanier for the fourth time. If we keep playing on this level, I think we can do it.”

Hattiesburg led 14-10 after the first quarter. Relissia Ray sank two three-point shots to put the Lady Rockets up 16-14 with 6:30 left in the period. Hattiesburg answered with a basket to tie it. Kaylee Routh hit a basket and added a free throw to give the Lady Rockets a 19-14 lead, and they never trailed again. Neshoba Central would outscore the Lady Tigers 13-10 in the time remaining to carry a 32-24 lead in at the half.

Hattiesburg opened the third quarter by outscoring the Lady Rockets 7-2 to pull within two points – 34-32 – with 4:30 remaining in the quarter. The Ray hit a three-point shot. Taylor Ben hit a free throw and the Lady Rockets kept their distance. Neshoba Central would carry a 44-37 lead into the final quarter.

Again the Lady Tigers made up ground and pulled within three points – 44-41 – with 6:36 left in the game. Then Andria Carter sank a basket and Ben hit a three-point shot to give the Lady Rockets a 49-41 lead with 4:28 remaining. Neshoba Central held on for the win.

Ray was the leading scorer with 15 points while Carter added 12 points and 11 rebounds.