BA honors senior hoopers before taking on East Rankin teams

Published 4:40 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

The home bleachers were extra full Thursday as Brookhaven Academy honored its basketball seniors prior to the varsity games against East Rankin Academy in John R. Gray Gymnasium.

In the opening girls’ game, BA coach Ron Kessler started all five of his seniors to begin the game with guards Ella Brown, Izzy Nelson and Kyla Armistad starting alongside the forward duo of twins Lillie and Emma Gates.

The Cougars led 20-14 at the halftime break before turning it up a notch in the second half and getting a 47-21 victory. The win moves the team to 30-3 on the season as the regular season draws to a close.

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BA will host Silliman Institute on Tuesday, Jan. 31 for the home finale and then wrap up the regular season by traveling to Bowling Green on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Earlier in the day the Gates twins had been named MAIS All-Star Game selections.

On Thursday, Emma led her team with 17 points in the win. Junior Reagan Fortenberry was the only other member of the squad in double figures with 10 points.

Lillie Gates and Ella Smiths scored four points each while Izzy Nelson, Chloe Nelson, Ainsley Orr, Anne Rylea Thurman, Ava Calcote and Mallory Martin all scored two points each for BA in the win.

The matchup with ERA was a non-district game and Kessler’s team has dominated in their District 4-5A matchups with division foes Oak Forest Academy, Silliman Institute, Bowling Green School and Columbia Academy.

In its first five division games, the team won by an average margin of 27 points.

The MAIS 5A South State Tournament will take place on Feb. 7-11 at Central Hinds Academy in Raymond and the 5A State Tournament will be played on the following week at Pillow Academy in Greenwood.

Competition at Central Hinds will include teams from District 3, which is made up of the host school, Copiah Academy, Madison-St. Joe, Adams County Christian School and Cathedral School.

Copiah and BA split their two matchups this season with CA winning 44-36 in Gallman on Jan. 7.

Last year in the 5A South State Tournament played at Copiah, Central Hinds beat Brookhaven Academy in the semifinals.

That led to the Cougars pairing up with Leake Academy in the first round of the 5A State Tournament, a game won by the eventual state champions from Leake.

This year, the 5A North State Tournament should be highly competitive as host Simpson Academy, Leake Academy, Pillow Academy and Lamar School lead the group of favorites.

In boys’ action on Thursday, senior Jacob Sanford scored a career-high 34 points, but East Rankin was able to nurse a late lead and hold on for a 71-66 win.

Sanford is one of five seniors on the team, all starters, that includes forward Cody Jensen, forward Easton Boyte, guard Colin Beal and guard Trevor Fortenberry.

Fortenberry also found out he was picked as a MAIS All-Star for basketball on Thursday and East Rankin began the game by face-guarding him in a box-and-1 defensive alignment.

It was the third meeting of the season between the boys’ teams from ERA and BA, with the Cougars winning the first two times the teams met.

The game Thursday was tied at 15-15 after the first quarter, but the visiting Patriots closed the second quarter on a 11-2 run to take a 32-26 lead at halftime.

The Brookhaven Academy boys’ team moved to 8-19 on the season with the loss. The top four teams in the district qualify for the 4A South State Tournament next week and BA has been in a battle with Columbia Academy for fourth place.