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Northside advances to Class 2A Championship with 57-40 semifinal win over Bogue Chitto

The Gators will face another Delta team, the Coahoma County Red Panthers, in Friday's title game

JACKSON —The Northside Gators are hoping the fourth time is a charm.

With Tuesday’s 57-40 win over Bogue Chitto, the Gators punched their ticket to the MHSAA 2A Championship game, where they will face the same Coahoma County team that has already beaten them three times this season in an all-Delta finale.

“I’m excited,” Northside coach Demarcus McKinley said. “It’s going to be amazing. We've seen them three times, and they beat us all three games, but each time we played them we got closer and closer. I really believe this game is going to be different.”

The way the Gators (19-12) played Tuesday, it may very well be. After an average start, the Gators turned up the heat on the Bobcats (21-6) in the second half.

Bogue Chitto took the lead on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Devonta Thompson and led it 14-12 at the end of the first quarter.

Northside regained the lead with two minutes left in the second quarter on a three-pointer from Lakendrick James, but Bogue Chitto responded with a late bucket to take a 20-19 lead into the half.

The second half wasn’t nearly as even.

The Gators opened the second half on a 15-7 run to take a 35-26 lead with 2:39 left in the third quarter, and James hit another three-pointer at the buzzer to put Northside ahead 41-29 going into the final period.

“We realized that we needed to do something different,” McKinley said. “We tried to take easier shots, get to the rack and play more solid defense. It wasn’t anything they were doing in the first half. It was us. We weren’t rotating or communicating on defense. We had a good game plan but we weren’t executing.”

When the Gators turned it on, they really turned it on. After building a 41-29 lead in the fourth quarter, Northside started playing keep-away with four minutes left.

Jordan McKnight finished with a game-high 19 points for the Gators. Lamont White scored 15 and Tyshun Appleton kicked in 11. Northside shot 42 percent (20 of 48) as a team.

Devonta Thompson scored 17 to lead Bogue Chitto.

It was a shocking let-down for the Bobcats, who had won each of their first three playoff games by double figures.

“They kind of turned it up physically on us there in the third quarter,” Bogue Chitto coach Marc Howard said. “We didn’t shoot very well at all. I kind of expected it. We haven’t seen (an environment) like this one, and it was a lot to overcome. We didn’t get any rolls early, and that kind of took us out of our game.”