5A final awaits Tupelo
Despite poor shooting, bad passes, Lady Wave advances to Friday's title game to play Meridian.
By Gene Phelps
JACKSON - Tupelo's Lady Wave survived an "ugly" scare Tuesday in the semifinals of the Class 5A State Tournament.
But despite poor shooting, bad passes and a ton of fouls, the top-ranked Lady Wave defeated Moss Point 58-47 at the Mississippi Coliseum to advance to Friday's championship game against Meridian.
"We didn't play well and we still won," said Tupelo all-state guard Tan White, who scored a team-high 18 points despite connecting on just 6-of-20 shots from the field. "It was a hard game."
Tupelo coach Nanci Gray, whose team committed numerous turnovers and was whistled for 22 fouls, sounded more like a losing coach than a winning one during her postgame interview.
"That was pretty ugly looking," she said. "Our ball control wasn't very good. We didn't look fluid. We better be a whole lot better if we want to beat Meridian."
Tupelo (31-2) and Meridian (32-4) are scheduled for play at 6:15 p.m. Friday in the title game. Meridian, which lost to Tupelo in December, 51-43 in the Columbus Christmas Classic, defeated Jackson Provine 72-39 Monday to advance to the championship game.
Friday's game will be the third straight 5A title game appearance for Tupelo. The Lady Wave lost to Jackson Murrah the last two seasons in the championship.
"We would have liked a rematch with Murrah, but we know Meridian will give us a good game," White said. "We can't slack up because we beat them earlier. We saw them against Provine and they looked pretty good."
Murrah was eliminated, 54-52, in the tournament quarterfinals by Moss Point.
White struggled early with her shooting in the spacious arena, missing two layups in the opening minutes. She scored her first basket with 32 seconds remaining in the opening period to give the Wave a 15-9 lead.
"Tan didn't have one of her better games," Gray said. "She missed some layups early and it took the mental edge off a little bit."
White said she had problems adjusting to the open space behind the goals.
"It's not like a high school gym," she said. "I struggled. It was one of my worst games shooting this season."
Moss Point guard Angel Liddell drew the assignment of covering White.
"We put our quickest player on White," Moss Point coach Stephen Pater said. "I just wish our other matchups would have worked as well. When we played them last year (in the state quarterfinals), I thought we matched up pretty well."
Moss Point (28-6) fell behind by 11 points early in the second period, but rallied to cut the Wave's lead to 22-18 on two free throws by Monique Cowan with 3 minutes, 12 seconds left in the half.
From that point, Tupelo closed the half with an 11-2 run to take a 33-20 halftime lead.
With White leading the charge, the Wave pushed its lead to 41-22 midway through the third period.
Moss Point slowly climbed back into contention late in the period, outscoring the foul-plagued Wave 13-2 to cut its lead to 43-35. When the period ended, White, Kim Larry and Shayla Long had four fouls apiece while Shay Ashford had three.
In the final quarter, Tupelo matched Moss Point basket for basket until Long and Tiffany Garth broke the game open with back-to-back layups to give their team a 56-43 lead.
"We knew we had a good margin, but with the fouls, you are never able to relax enough," Gray said.
For Tupelo, Garth added 13 points. Cowan led the Lady Tigers with 16 while Liddell, whose assignment was covering White, finished with 14.
(G) Tupelo 58, Moss Point 47
Tupelo 15 18 10 15 - 58
Moss Point 9 11 15 12 - 47
Tupelo: Tan White 18, Tiffany Garth 13.
Moss Point: Monique Cowan 16, Angel Liddell 14.
Records: Tupelo 31-2, Moss Point 28-6.
Notes: Tupelo will play Meridian at 6:15 p.m. Friday in the Class 5A title game.