Hughes returns to the court; Lady Warriors advances to QuarterfinalsBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – Oak Grove senior Lekera Hughes wasn’t sure if she was going to play in the second-round matchup with Brandon Friday night. She wanted to, but it was still an unknown.
After not playing in the first half, Hughes started the third quarter and quickly made a 3-pointer. Her presence helped spark an Oak Grove comeback, as the Lady Warriors beat Brandon 42-41 to advance to the 6A Quarterfinals in Jackson.
“I was waiting for him to put me in and waiting for my chance,” Hughes said. “Whenever I got in, I had to do what I had to do.”
Hughes missed most of the season due to a knee injury, and she only played a few minutes in a late-season tilt against Jefferson Davis County prior to the Region Tournaments last week. The Lady Warriors cruised to the region title, setting up the second-round home game with the Lady Bulldogs.
“She just got released two days and Doc, our trainer, said, ‘Coach, she’s not ready for a full game,’” Lady Warriors’ coach Mark Swindle said. “I just held off and we just decided if we were going to do it, we might as well do it.
“We didn’t really talk much about her (during halftime), because she wants to play. She’s a competitor and she wants to get out there no matter when I put her out there.”
The reigning PineBeltSPORTS Player of the Year scored 10 points in her first half of basketball this season, and it all started just seconds into the third quarter with Oak Grove trailing 25-19. She received a pass on the left wing and drilled the shot to cut Brandon’s lead to 25-23.
“That was just me playing,” she said. “My teammates saw me open, I felt confident enough to shoot it, I pulled it and hit it.”
She added a layup later in the quarter to cut the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to 31-29, then five more points in the fourth quarter to help give Oak Grove its first lead since the game was 4-1.
The Lady Warriors held Brandon to six third-quarter points, then they went up a 13-0 run to take a 38-31 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Hughes second 3-pointer of the night was the final made shot of the run, too.
Hughes’ most important play came in the final minutes when she found senior Constance Durr streaking through the lane for an easy layup. That gave the Lady Warriors the 42-35 lead, and it proved to be the difference in the game.
Oak Grove (22-5) advances to play two-seeded Tupelo (20-9), which pulled off a road win over Horn Lake Friday 43-38. The game is set for a 1:30 tip next Saturday at Jackson State.
“We just stayed focused this year,” Hughes said. “We didn’t do anything different. We expected everything and we came out and played good.”