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Kossuth guard Zoe Essary fights back tears as she fouls out in the closing minutes of her team’s game against Senatobia on Friday night in Fulton.

FULTON Even with their best player back, Kossuth’s girls could not maintain their state title defense.

The Lady Aggies were dethroned Friday in the quarterfinals of the MHSAA Class 3A state tournament at ICC's Davis Event Center, falling to Senatobia, 61-47.

Point guard Zoe Essary – Kossuth’s leading scorer – returned after missing the last five games with a knee injury. But she was not 100% healthy, and the Lady Aggies were flummoxed all night by Senatobia’s press.

“She’s gritty, she wanted to play and has heart,” Kossuth coach Angie Malone said. “All the girls had heart. What do you say? We had a great season.”

After winning its first state championship last year, Kossuth finishes this season at 24-7.

Meanwhile, Senatobia (26-4) will face Crystal Springs in the semifinals at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday in Jackson.

The Lady Warriors pressed Kossuth all game, and it really started to take effect in the third quarter. Tiana Abron, who spent most of her time guarding Essary, led the effort and finished with six steals.

Senatobia led 23-19 at halftime and started to steadily pull away in the third.

“We went from going straight man to run-and-jump and putting more pressure on them so they couldn’t get the ball past halfcourt,” Senatobia coach Tosheba Jones said.

Abron scored a game-high 18 points, while Tanajah Saulsberry had 16. Tiara Abron – Tiana’s twin sister – had 11 points.

“That’s crazy that she was the one that had the offensive game,” Jones said of Tiana, “because normally it’s her sister, the twin, that’s the offensive player, and (Tiana’s) a defensive player. But she took over like she didn’t want to lose this ballgame.”

Essary finished with nine points and fouled out in the fourth quarter. Faith Williamson led Kossuth with 15 points.

Three-pointers

Turning Point: Senatobia went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter to open up a 38-27 lead.

Point Maker: Tiana Abron shot 7 of 13 from the field.

Talking Point: “We worked on the press all week, but tonight they were just better than us, and they got us on the defensive end.” – Malone

Also Friday

(G) Ruleville Central 52, Belmont 49: Ole Miss signee Jacorriah Bracey scored 34 points to lead the Lady Tigers (27-4).

The five-star senior scored 26 of her points after halftime in a game that was tight the whole way. Her two free throws with 5.6 seconds left provided the final winning margin.

Abby Kuykendall and Macie Walker led No. 6-ranked Belmont (28-5) with 12 points each.

Ruleville Central will face Tylertown at 9 a.m. on Wednesday in the semifinals.

(B) Holly Springs 76, Noxubee County 45: Derek Fountain scored 22 points as Holly Springs cruised into the semifinals.

Cori Bell added 16 points for the Hawks, who led 33-18 at halftime.

Noxubee County (19-13) was led by Demone Cunningham’s 12 points.

Holly Springs (25-7) will face St. Andrew’s at noon Wednesday in the semifinals.

(B) Houston 80, North Panola 69: The Hilltoppers held on to win a wild back-and-forth game, finally putting the Cougars away in the final minute.

Freshman M.J. Smith’s alley-oop slam gave Houston (22-10) a 74-67 lead with 1:08 left in the game. That was part of a 10-3 run that broke open a two-point game.

Smith finished with 14 points, as did Xavier Virges. Shemar Crawford led Houston with 21.

Cedquavious Hunter scored 36 for North Panola (22-10).

Houston will take on Velma Jackson at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals.

brad.locke@journalinc.com

Twitter: @bradlocke

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