BRANDON — Brandon coach Candace Foster couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Behind a strong first quarter - and the stellar play of guards Tandria Minor and Marley Freeman - the Lady Bulldogs got past Hancock 42-28 in the second round of the MHSAA Girls Class 6A Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Brandon (21-4) will host Harrison Central in the Third Round of the Class 6A playoffs on Friday night at 6 p.m.
“I think we played well overall for the most part and we stuck to our game plan,” Foster said. “Got the stops we needed defensively and proud of the girls of how they stayed focused.”
Brandon never trailed the entire game.
The Lady Bulldogs raced out to a 17-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. Minor scored nine points and Freeman had seven points in the opening frame.
“We preach all the time in the locker room to throw the first punch and set the tone early, especially at home,” Foster added. “We need that kind of start the rest of the season. Come out early and try to take the other team's confidence away.”
Brandon held a 24-11 lead at halftime, and the second half was a defensive scrum.
Hancock ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run to cut the lead down to 10 points at 30-20.
In the fourth quarter, Brandon scored five quick points to stretch the lead to 15, at 35-20.
Hancock cut the lead back down to 11 points at 37-26 midway through the quarter, but in the final 1:41, the Lady Bulldogs went 5-for-10 from the free throw line to seal the win.
“Tandria is what makes us go on both ends of the floor and is the heart and soul of this team. Marley is the same way,” Foster said. “Now we move on and have Harrison Central at home on Friday, and it will be a tall task.”
Minor had a game-high 16 points to lead Brandon, while Freeman added 12. Gabrielle Collier chipped in 10 for the Lady Bulldogs.
“We knew we had to come out and play hard,” Minor said. “We refuse to lose and defensively we played really well tonight. I feel like the way we are playing right now we are going to make it.”
Madelyn Ladner had 15 points to lead Hancock. The Lady Hawks finished the season 21-7.
“The first quarter killed us," Hancock coach Jamie Sisco said. "We’re not a team that’s built to play from behind. I truly felt we were prepared and ready to play, but Brandon is really good, and they played really well to start the game.”