Oak Grove girls can easily make a run through the playoffs, but it's a difficult road
What I witnessed on Friday night was spectacular, and it’s something I wasn’t expecting in a district championship game. The Oak Grove Lady Warriors dominated offensively and they were stout on defense on their way to a 29-point win against the Brandon Lady Bulldogs.
Some time during the third quarter when Oak Grove junior guard Lekera Hughes was putting on a clinic, somebody came up to me and asked, “Do you think they can win state?” I was hesitant to answer in the affirmative, but after thinking about for a couple of days … sure. Why not? Especially if the Lady Warriors played like they did Friday night.
Senior Derricka Millinghaus was hot early for Oak Grove, then players like seniors Gabby Haynes and Kanisha Reedy contributed to help get Oak Grove to a 21-point halftime lead. The Lady Warriors had a 6-0 run in the first quarter, then a 12-0 run in the second all with leading scorer Hughes scoring only four first-half points.
That’s pretty scary.
Brandon was doing a good job on Hughes defensively, Oak Grove head coach Mark Swindle said after the game, but the Lady Bulldogs couldn’t account for the player Oak Grove players. Once Hughes got into a rhythm, she scored 19 second-half points to finish with 23 points.
“For real?” Hughes said after the game when I read her the stat line. “I let it come natural, actually. I wasn’t forcing it and I think I played well. My teammates helped me get involved, too.”
It’s not like she was struggling shooting the ball in the first half. She just didn’t get any shots off. Hughes finished 10-for-11 from the field, and it marked the third time this season she recorded 20-plus points in a game this season. She scored 31 against Forrest County AHS in late December and 26 points against Warren Central earlier that month.
Oak Grove (24-3) earned the one-seed in the 6A state playoffs, and it’ll play the winner of Biloxi (21-9) and Pearl (16-10) at home on Friday at 7 p.m.
If I may, I’ll look ahead a potential matchups, because Oak Grove needs just one win to advance to Jackson for the 6A Quarterfinal. I assume Oak Grove will host the Lady Indians in the second round, and they’re kind of like Oak Grove, in terms of getting production from multiple players.
Tupelo (24-5) would be the one-seed Oak Grove could match up against in the quarterfinals.
The biggest test would come in the semifinals. Harrison Central (21-3) would likely be the team Oak Grove would find itself up against, and the Lady Warriors fell to the Lady Red Rebels earlier this season, 57-47. For what it’s worth, Harrison won a four-point game in the district championship over Biloxi.
Oh yeah, Harrison Central would have to beat an undefeated Starkville (27-0) team if it wants to advance to the semifinals.
Across the bracket, Murrah (20-5), Olive Branch (29-1), St. Martin (18-11) and Jim Hill (25-5) all sit across the bracket as top seeds. Any way you look at it, the road will be tough for the Lady Warriors.
Doesn’t it have to be for an eventual state champion?