Franklin Co. falls three points short of South State title

Published 12:25 am Tuesday, February 23, 2010

MEADVILLE — The MHSAA Class 3A South State championship game was a battle of contrasts.

It was Franklin County’s size against Choctaw Central’s speed and quickness.

And in the end, the Lady Warriors’ quickness won out — but just barely.

Choctaw Central’s Coby Wallace made a driving layup with 32 seconds left to give the Lady Warriors the lead and then nailed two free throws with 6.9 seconds left to seal the 62-59 win over the Lady Bulldogs.

“This team is all heart and guts,” Choctaw Central coach Jennie Vance said. “We might be little, but we play big when it matters and we have all year long.”

Both teams will advance to the State Tournament in Jackson, with Franklin County playing its first game at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Mississippi Coliseum against Belmont.

Choctaw Central had no answer for Franklin County’s inside duo of Vintrice Briggs and Cee Cee Miller, who combined to score 43 of Franklin County’s 59 points.

But thanks to the Lady Warriors’ frantic, pressing defense and fast-paced offense, they were able to keep Franklin County’s offense out of rhythm for much of the game.

“(Choctaw Central) takes you out of your comfort zone,” Franklin County coach Charles Moore said. “If you play at their pace it turns into a frantic game. When we controlled the tempo, we were OK.”

And Franklin County was able to control the tempo at times during the game.

The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-4 lead to open the game, but Choctaw Central fought back and the half ended with the score tied at 29.

Franklin County then came out of the locker room determined to get the ball inside to Briggs and Miller, and they responded.

Briggs and Miiller scored 15 of Franklin County’s 17 points in the third quarter, and the Lady Bulldogs opened up a nine-point lead midway through the quarter.

However, Choctaw Central was once again able to come back thanks to their fast-paced defense and offense.

Three-pointers by Chenice Ben and DeShayna Hickman brought the Lady Warriors closer, and a basket by Delanda Chickaway with 8 seconds remaining in the third tied the score at 46 heading to the fourth quarter.

Choctaw Central took a 52-50 lead early in the fourth, but Franklin County scored the next seven points to take a five-point lead with 3:55 remaining.

But once again, Choctaw Central fought back.

Two consecutive jumpers by Chickaway pulled the Lady Warriors to within a point and a basket by Ben put Choctaw Central up 58-57 with 55 seconds to play.

Franklin County got the lead back after Miller hit two free throws with 43.5 seconds remaining, but Choctaw Central’s Wallace took matters into her own hands just 11 seconds later when she drove hard to the basket and made the shot off glass.

“Coby Wallace is a senior and we haven’t been to (the State Tournament) since she was in eighth grade,” Vance said. “She wanted it so bad and she came through for us.”

Collins tried to answer at the other end, but her shot was too hard off the backboard and Choctaw Central rebounded.

After Wallace’s two free throws with 6.9 seconds left put the Lady Warriors up three, Franklin County tried to hurry the ball up the court for a last-second shot, but Choctaw Central stole the ball and ran out the clock.

Briggs led Franklin County with 29 points while Miller scored 14 and Erica Jenkins had eight.

Choctaw Central was led by Chickaway with 15 points, Wallace with 12, Ben with 11 and Mildred Jimmie with 10.

But even though Franklin County came up short this time, there is a possibility the two teams will meet again in the State Tournament with a state championship hanging in the balance.

“Luckily we live to fight another day,” Moore said. “We’re motivated to see them again and see what we can do.”