Lady Cougars move to 19-1 with big hoops win over Hillcrest

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Hillcrest Christian School girls’ basketball team couldn’t find much room to operate Monday when facing Brookhaven Academy at Copiah Academy.

As Hilcrest brought the ball across half court, the BA defense was spread out high and wide in a zone that ate up the court.

That defense forced turnovers which led to easy baskets which led to a big BA win as the Lady Cougars moved to 19-1 on the season with a 65-18 victory in the opening day of the CA holiday tournament.

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Hillcrest scored just three points in the second half as they trailed 42-15 at halftime.

“One of our team goals is to keep our opponent under 50 points each game,” said BA head coach Ron Kessler. “We’ve done that every game but one and we’ve held our opponents under 40 points in 18 games this season.”

The lone loss for Kessler’s team this season was a road game they dropped 42-33 at Madison Ridgeland Academy (17-1).

The win over Hillcrest moved BA on to face Hartfield Academy (14-2) Tuesday in the second round of the tournament. The Lady Cougars knocked off Hartfield 55-50 back on Nov. 13.

Kessler has a veteran crew as senior point guard Anne Brantley Warren was the starting point guard on a state championship winning team as an eighth grader. Warren starts alongside fellow seniors Abby Grace Richardson, Madison Moak and Bailee Goodson.

Junior center Lillie Gates rounds out the starting lineup and gives her team a rebound and shot blocking presence inside standing at a little over 6-feet tall. Senior Emily Claire Felder is another experienced forward off the bench as she, senior guard Anna Caroline Adams and sophomore Regan Fortenberry all saw the court early on Monday.

You’d probably call Richardson a forward too, but most nights her position is just one of standing beside the basket and cleaning up messes.

Monday, Richardson got behind the HCS defense for early layups and ate the opposition up with offensive rebounds and put backs. She scored a game high 22 points to lead the Lady Cougars.

Moak added 12 points while Warren chipped in nine points. Lillie Gates scored eight points and her twin sister Emma added seven points for BA. Goodson rounded out the scoring for the Lady Cougars with five points.

The Lady Cougars host Jackson Prep on Jan. 4 for another tough non-division matchup. They start district play on Jan. 7 with a trip to Oak Forest Academy.

BA finished 27-8 last season and easily won their district, before losing 38-33 in overtime to Simpson Academy in the opening round of the south state tournament.

Copiah Academy is hosting this year’s 5A South Stat Tournament and the Lady Cougars will be overwhelming favorites when that tournament begins in Feb.

They’ll also have the advantage of hosing the MIAS 5A State Tournament that starts on Feb. 14. Pillow Academy and Leake Academy (17-2) are two of the favorites expected to make the tournament from the north.

There’s still lots of basketball to be played between now and then for Kessler’s team and expect the Lady Cougars to continue to lean on their defense in the final month of regular season play.

“The focus this year has been about amping up our defensive effort and the team has really bought in,” said Kessler. “We’re averaging almost three charges a game. Whether it’s man or zone, full court pressure of half court pressure — this team has responded to each game plan and the way we’re playing together collectively as a group is the sole reason for the success we’ve had so far.”