Franklin County wins, in state final

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

JACKSON &045; From what he saw before the game, Franklin County head coach Chris Jordan was worried his team might get embarrassed.

&uot;From what I saw during warm-ups, I was worried we weren’t going to score 40,&uot; Jordan said.

Instead, the Bulldogs had one of their highest-scoring games of the season, racking up 84 points, including 30 in the fourth quarter, to take an 84-67 win over Senatobia (25-10) in the semifinal round of the MHSAA Class 3A State Tournament.

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&uot;That’s the most we’ve scored in a long time and the most we’ve given up in a long time,&uot; Jordan said.

Franklin County (24-7) will face the winner of tonight’s game between Choctaw Central, whom the Bulldogs beat at South State, and Holly Springs at 8:15 p.m. Friday at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson for the state championship.

Though Franklin County led for much of the game &045; the Bulldogs were up 39-30 at the half &045; it was the fourth quarter that got them the win.

The Bulldogs appeared to be less tired in the final period and ran the floor with ease against Senatobia. Warriors’ head coach Ken McGaha said he felt his team was tired during the fourth.

&uot;We were tired, and if you don’t have your legs, those shots aren’t going to fall for you,&uot; McGaha said.

While Senatobia went almost exclusively to the outside shot, Franklin County continued to run its offense and get open looks. Guard Jonathan Brooks hit two 3-pointers in the first 69 seconds of the final period, stretching his team’s lead to 13 points.

Forward Wesley Brown came in for starter Deandre Davis and scored four baskets in the fourth, two of them on fast breaks, to push the lead to as many as 19 points.

Brown put an exclamation mark on the victory with a thunderous fast-break dunk that made the score 84-65 with 1:37 to play.

Senatobia’s Derrick Smith almost singlehandedly kept his team in the game. He scored 32 in the game, 18 of that in the second half when he attacked the basket with ferocity, scoring five baskets despite being fouled in the act of shooting each time.

But the Bulldogs’ advantage inside was too much for Senatobia, a team that relies primarily on its guard play. None of the Warrior big men could match up with Marcus Tillman or Brown on the inside, and the two Bulldogs repeatedly got easy layups down low.

&uot;They took advantage of the size advantage they had,&uot; McGaha said. &uot;We’ve been the smaller team all year. We weren’t scared or bothered by their size, but we couldn’t get anything going. When you can’t get anything going, it multiplies that advantage by 100.&uot;

Things could easily have gone a different way. All three of Franklin County’s big men, Tillman, Davis and Brown, were in foul trouble for stretches of the game.

&uot;At then end of the third, we had most of their key players in foul trouble,&uot; McGaha said. &uot;I told our guys you can’t make up a big deficit in one shot. You have to chip away. We didn’t do a good job chipping away. But (3s) were about the only good looks we could get.&uot;

Those 3s didn’t help the Warriors get back in the game, and Franklin County survived the foul difficulty by rotating its big men throughout the game.

In the fourth quarter, all Franklin could do was watch as Senatobia repeatedly threw up 25-foot 3-pointers. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the Warriors hit few of those.

&uot;They came down shooting 3s,

and we had to play defense, box out and rebound,&uot; Brooks said.

Tillman and Brooks came through big for the Bulldogs, scoring 27 and 26 respectively. Brown came off the bench to score 16.

&uot;I think football helps as far as their toughness and stamina,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;I don’t sub much and they don’t ask to come out much. It’s pretty much the same six or seven guys in there all the time for us.&uot;