Harrison Central High School will have a healthy convoy of fans headed to Jackson Saturday for the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
For the first time since 2013, both the Harrison Central girls and boys basketball teams have advanced to compete in Jackson.
The Harrison Central boys will play Callaway at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Jackson State. The Red Rebelettes will play Starkville at 8:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“It’s a really exciting thing that both the boys and girls are going to state,” Harrison Central girls coach Nancy Ladner said. “It hasn’t happened in a while. The kids are really up since the boys and girls are going.”
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The only other Coast team to advance to Jackson, the Biloxi girls, will play Tupelo at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the 6A quarterfinals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
The Harrison Central girls (22-3) face a familiar foe in Starkville, which is one of only two teams to beat the Red Rebelettes this season. Faith Academy, which is located in Mobile, beat Harrison Central twice and Starville beat Harrison Central 47-31 on Dec. 27 in Starkville.
Starkville’s 6-foot-3 senior, Kelsey Jones, scored 23 points that day to help beat Harrison Central.
“They have a good inside game and we didn’t play well for one thing,” Ladner said looking back at the loss. “We did not stop their inside game.
“In looking back, we’ve grown as a team. We’ve come a long way since that game. After reviewing the film, this team has really matured a lot since them. There are a lot of things we’ve improved on since that point.”
Starkville has rolled to a 29-0 record this season, winning most games by double digits.
A much bigger Starkville team will have the advantage inside so it will be up to junior guard Chyna Allen and the rest of the Lady Rebel backcourt to play some of their best basketball of the season.
“We’ve got to get out there and play and leave everything on the court,” Ladner said. “We’ve got to play like we’re playing in the state championship game. It’s a must-win situation from here on out.”
The Harrison Central boys also face a tough task in Callaway, which will have the home court advantage on Jackson State’s campus.
Callaway will be the bigger team with four players standing 6-foot-5 or taller, including 6-6 senior Kassim Nicholson, who is averaging 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.
“From looking at the film, they’re very big and athletic,” Harrison Central boys coach Boo Hardy. “They don’t too much of playing up tempo. They play a halfcourt offense and try to wear you down.”
Junior guard Tanarrio Ransburgh leads Callaway in scoring 16.9 points a game and 6-2 senior John Knight is pitching in 15.0 points a contest.
“We’ll just go in with the mindset that we’ve got to play the best basketball we’ve played this year,” Hardy said. “We’ll let the rest take care of itself.”
Lady Indians rolling
Biloxi head coach Devin Hill is very familiar with his opponent on Saturday, Tupelo.
Hill’s wife, Shayla, played on the last Tupelo girls team to win a state title in 2001 and she worked as a coach in the Tupelo school district the last four years.
“We like our match-up,” Hill said. “We know Tupelo well. We’re familiar with their girls and their style of play. It’s a one-game season.”
Biloxi is 23-9 while Tupelo has a record of 25-5 and has only lost one game in 2017.
The Harrison Central and Biloxi girls have a chance to meet for the fourth time this season if both teams win their games on Friday. Harrison Central won all three games against Biloxi this season, but two contests were decided in overtime.
The winners of Tupelo-Biloxi and Starkville-Harrison Central will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Class 6A semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Coast teams in Jackson on Saturday:
1:30 p.m. - Harrison Central boys vs. Callaway at Jackson State
7 p.m. - Biloxi girls vs. Tupelo at the Mississippi Coliseum
8:30 p.m. - Harrison Central girls vs. Starkville at the Mississippi Coliseum
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