JACKSON — Holmes County Central is headed back to the 5A State Championship.
Amarion Hoggan and Louzavious Thomas combined for 41 points and the Jaguars held off Florence 66-57 in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Boys Class 5A playoffs at the Mississippi Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Holmes County Central (22-8), the defending Class 5A state champions, will face New Hope for the Class 5A State Championship at 7 p.m. Friday night on this same court.
“We had to secure the ball, limit the turnovers and make key shots,” said Holmes County Central coach DeAngelo Priar. “Florence is a good team that has good players (with) good fundamentals. Our guys stepped up when they needed to, and I’m proud of them for that.”
It was a tight game throughout, but Holmes County Central never trailed.
The Jaguars held a 13-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 31-27 lead at halftime.
To begin the third quarter, Holmes County went on a 11-4 run to extend their lead to 44-31. Florence came right back with a 9-2 run to cut the lead down to 46-40 with just under three minutes to play. Holmes County held a 50-45 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Florence briefly cut the lead to one point thanks to a 6-0 run at 52-51. Priar said he had told the told the team the Eagles would make a run at some point in the game.
“We had to live through that and fight through it,” Priar said. “Our bigs did a good job on the boards and attacked the glass. Now it’s on to New Hope.”
Holmes responded with their own 6-0 run to extend the lead back to seven, at 58-51, and held on from there.
Hoggan had 23 points to lead Holmes County Central, while Thomas added 18 points for the Jaguars.
“We just came out and competed... that’s it,” Hoggan said. “It was tough, but once we start making free throws, we feel more confident. We’ve been here before and (are) making better shots.”
Carter Mullins had a game-high 26 points to lead Florence, while Jaylan McNair added 13 points for the Eagles (27-3).
“We had a chance to take the lead and just turned it over a couple times, and they made shots,” said Florence coach Darrin Chancellor. “We couldn’t get into rhythm on offense because they are a very good team and long. We did the best we could with what we had.
"I'm proud of this team. Nobody thought we’d be here (in our) first year in 5A, we’ve been 47-4 in two seasons and we’re proud of the guys and do the best we can.”