JACKSON — The duo of Addison Howell and Rhema Pegues are difficult to stop.
Behind them and its always stingy defense, Olive Branch got past Meridian High School 73-53 in the semifinal round of the MHSAA Class 6A girls basketball state semifinals Wednesday evening at the Mississippi Coliseum.
The Lady Conquistadors (24-1) will play Germantown for the Class 6A state championship at 5 p.m. Saturday night.
“Great job of settling down early, because we were nervous,” Olive Branch coach Jason Thompson said. “The girls played their tails off from start to finish and did the things we’ve been working on consistently all year. They’ve just been trusting the process and playing together. Rhema has all the ability in the world, and she displayed that today.”
MHS jumped out to a 6-0 lead to begin the game and held a 19-15 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was back-and-forth. With MHS up 27-24 midway through, Olive Branch went on an 8-3 run to end the frame, taking a 33-30 lead into the half.
The Lady Quistors didn’t trail from that point for the rest of the game. Olive Branch extended its lead to seven at 48-41 midway through the third quarter and outscored the Lady Wildcats 10-5 to end the period and take a 58-48 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Olive Branch held MHS to just five points and also held the Lady Wildcats’ standout junior Debreasha Powe, who was in foul trouble, to just four points.
“We got to the second half and threw some wrinkles at them defensively and just made adjustments if needed,” Thompson said. “They have two great players, and the triangle-and-two hurt them. We knew what they were capable of doing, so we didn’t want them to get loose.”
Pegues had a game-high 24 points to lead Olive Branch, while Howell added 16 points for the Lady Quistors.
“We lost one of our major scorers last year, so I took into consideration that I needed to step up,” Pegues said. “We play well together as team, and we had to communicate well and switch up defensively and we did.”
Arianna Patton had 15 points to lead MHS, while Charity Hinton added 14 points for the Lady Wildcats (19-4).
“We didn’t play our best defensive game and gave up too many rebounds,” MHS coach Deneshia Faulkner said. “We had a great year, and we lose just one senior, so hopefully we can learn from this.”