Franklin County plays for state championship tonight

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Beating Holly Springs in the MHSAA Class 3A state championship game at 8:30 p.m. won’t be easy for Franklin County. On that point, just about everyone agrees.

Holly Springs, the Bulldogs opponent, has lost just one game this year &045; and that while two of its best players were serving a suspension &045; and some experts think the Hawks might be the best team in Mississippi regardless of class.

And you can count Franklin County head coach Chris Jordan among the admirers of head coach Naylond Hayes’ team.

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&uot;It’s going to be a real challenge,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;They have five great guys. Their execution is the best I’ve ever seen out of a high school team.&uot;

Holly Springs is the defending state champion, and even without departed senior Tarell Wilson, an All-State center for the Hawks a year ago, this team may actually be stronger. The Hawks are 33-1.

So strong that the Hawks were already talking like they had won another state championship before they even beat Choctaw Central in the state semifinals.

&uot;They can talk the talk and walk the walk,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;That article in the Clarion-Ledger about the dream game before they even played Choctaw Springs, most teams would shy away from that. But this team is good enough to talk like that.&uot;

The article Jordan referred to discussed about the possibility of a &uot;dream game&uot; between Jackson’s Lanier High School and Holly Springs. Both are heavy favorites to win the state championship in Class 4A and 3A respectively.

Franklin County has more modest aspirations; a state title would suit the Bulldogs just fine.

&uot;I was joking with (assistant) coach (Charles) Moore, beating them would be our dream game,&uot; Jordan said.

Holly Springs’ greatest strength is probably its transition game. The Hawks are fast at every position and like to push the ball on offense to get easy baskets on the fast break. Holly Springs usually starts those fast breaks with steals at the defensive end, something the Bulldogs will have to do their best to prevent, Jordan said.

&uot;They play an extended 2-3 zone and you’ll think a pass is open and then someone will just appear and take the ball to the other end,&uot; Jordan said.

The Hawks are also known for their defense, which generally tries to shut down the opposing team’s best player by denying him the ball. This might be tough to do against Franklin County, which is extremely balanced.

Forward DeAndre Davis said players other than Jonathan Brooks and Marcus Tillman, who had 26 points and 27 respectively in Monday’s semifinal win over Senatobia.

&uot;Like coach said, Tillman and Brooks drop 27 and 26,&uot; Davis said. &uot;Now the rest of us have to step and play hard. We want to do something Franklin County’s never done before.&uot;

The Bulldogs are just one game away from that.