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40-0 BA girls beat Leake Academy 87-60

CANTON — It was a Cougar Blue day in Canton Academy’sjam-packed gymnasium. The Lady Cougars shot the lights out andrealized a three-peat, winning their third straight Class AA StateTournament championship by defeating Leake Academy 87-60.

A capacity crowd, estimated at 1,300, watched Coach Barry Gray’sgirls enjoy their best shooting game of the season. Guard KelliByrd and forward Jessie Altman led the way with 22 points apiece.Guards Mallory Logan and Lauren Smith pumped in 17 and 16 pointsrespectively.

The Lady Cougars (40-0) advance to the MPSA Overall Tournamentat Mississippi College in Clinton this week. They are expected toplay either Tuesday or Wednesday.

“That was probably our best game of the year,” said Gray. “Allfive or our starters maxed out today.”

Gray’s girls shot a sizzling 54 percent from the field, making27 of 50 field goal attempts. They also sparkled at the free throwline, making 27 of 38.

“We made crisp passes and our girls handled the ball wellagainst their press,” said Gray. Leake’s aggressive style of playdidn’t cause the expected turnovers. Instead, the Lady Cougars madea successful parade to the charity line.

Trailing 40-20 at halftime, Coach Doyle Wolverton placed hisLady Rebels in an aggressive full-court press. They fouled the LadyCougars on 6 field goal attempts to start the second half and BAresponded by making 10 of 12 free throws, increasing the lead to52-26 with 4:38 showing.

Wolverton said he was impressed with the Lady Cougars. “If theyplay like that in the Overall, nobody will touch them. They playedwell. Every time we double-teamed them they were able to breakthrough it.

“They can shoot it, they can pass it and they can dribbleit.”

Leake (36-2) took an early 2-0 lead but Byrd hit her first 3field goals of the game and the Lady Cougars never trailed. Theyled 12-9 at the quarter and by 20 points at halftime, despite 3personal fouls on Davidson who was trying to contain Leake’s 6-footcenter, Kristin Caldwell.

“Kristian did a good job on Caldwell,” said Gray. “He kept herfrom getting set up.” Caldwell was held to 11 points and 8rebounds.

Altman, the only senior starter in BA’s lineup, had acareer-high total of points. She said she concentrated on slowingdown Caldwell. “I was trying to help our team win. We wanted tokeep Caldwell of the blocks.”

Byrd and the Lady Cougars caused Leake’s high-powered insidegame to blow a fuse, causing 20 first-half turnovers. She also had9 rebounds and 7 assists. Byrd said their goal is to winOverall.

“We have one more tournament to win,” said Byrd, a 5-4 junior.”We can’t be satisfied.”

The Lady Cougars showed exceptional accuracy from 3-point fieldgoal land. Smith and Logan both hit 3 treys. Logan also had 5assists and Smith 4.

“We have a strong group of unselfish, Christian young ladies onour team,” said Gray. “They want to give God the glory.”

Leake was led by sophomore forward Greggina Tadlock with 16points and freshman guard Regan Dees with 12.

In the consolation game, Presbyterian Christian School defeatedSimpson County 47-36.