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Neshoba Central puts finishing touches on 33-0 season with win over Columbus in MHSAA 5A State Championship (photos)

It's the first undefeated season in Mississippi girls basketball since 2008

JACKSON — Undefeated season accomplished.

Behind a stingy defense along with the play of Carly Keats, Neshoba Central held on to beat Columbus 49-41 to cap the undefeated season and claim the MHSAA Girls Class 5A State Championship on Friday night at the Mississippi Coliseum.

It’s the Lady Rockets (33-0) third state title in school history and first state title since 2017. Neshoba Central is the first girls’ team since Gentry in 2008 to go undefeated in a season. Gentry went 40-0 that year.

“This feels great, and it probably won’t soak in for a while. These girls just have the refuse to lose attitude,” said Neshoba Central coach Jason Broome. “We knew in November it was going to be tough but after we beat Choctaw Central twice, Germantown and Pontotoc I knew we had a chance. We talked about it, and I told the girls if you handle business everything will fall into place.”

The game was a defensive struggle with both teams not shooting well. Neshoba Central shot 16-for-48 from the field (33 percent) and just 4-of-18 from three-point. Columbus shot 15-of-47 from the field (32 percent) and 2-for-8 from three-point range.

The first half was back and forth as Columbus held a 11-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, and Neshoba Central held a 21-20 at halftime.

The third quarter was the difference in the game as the Lady Rockets outscored the Lady Falcons 19-12 and ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 40-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter midway through Columbus cut the Lady Rocket lead down to four points at 42-38.

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After Zharia Leflore made one of two free throws to give Neshoba Central a 43-38 lead, Columbus’ Makayla Rieves hit a lay-up to cut the lead down to 43-40.

Carly Keats hit a pair of free throws with 34 seconds left to give the Lady Rockets a 45-40 and another pair of free throws with 21 seconds left to give Neshoba Central a 47-40 lead and sealed the win.

“That was very fitting to have her at the free throw line to close the game out,” Broome said. “I was so happy for all the girls. This is my 19th year coaching and my first state championship ever, so I’ll cherish this one.”

Keats had 11 points for Neshoba Central and was named the game’s most valuable player. Hama’ya Fielder had 14 points and Denise Denson had 11 points for the Lady Rockets.

“We struggled shooting in the first half, but in the second half our defense picked up and shots started to fall,” Keats said. “This team trusted me, and I trusted them, and we got it done.”

Rieves had a game-high 22 points to lead Columbus (24-4).

“We knew they could play and run, but we knew we could play with them, but we got foul trouble early and that cost us,” said Columbus coach Yvonne Hairston. “Some calls didn’t go our way and just didn’t fall in our favor.”

PHOTO GALLERY

(All photos by Austin Frayser)

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