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Terry pulls away late in 46-37 win over South Panola, punches ticket to MHSAA 6A Championship

The Lady Bulldogs are headed to the title game for the first time since 2018

Elisiah Branson is generously listed at 5-foot-3 and 120 pounds on the Terry basketball roster, but nobody played a bigger role than the Lady Bulldogs’ splendid guard in Wednesday’s semifinal win over South Panola.

The senior finished with a team-high 13 points, provided seven steals and grabbed six rebounds to help the Lady Bulldogs beat the Lady Tigers 46-37 in front of a friendly crowd at the Mississippi Coliseum.

Terry (25-6) will face the winner of the second semifinal between Neshoba Central and Hancock at 2 p.m. Saturday with a golden ball trophy on the line.

MORE: MHSAA Class 6A Girls Basketball Playoff Bracket

“It feels good,” Branson said. “(Terry) hasn’t been in the championship game in a while. We work hard every day in practice and we go through everything together as a team.”

Wednesday’s semifinal was as close as it could be for the first three quarters. Terry led it 11-9 after the first quarter and 20-19 at the half. Going into the fourth quarter, the two teams were tied at 29-29.

The big difference in the decisive fourth quarter was the foul situation. The Tigers’ reigning Miss Basketball Kamiyah Griffin was already in trouble with four fouls. So was South Panola’s 6-foot center Shania Fondren.

Both were forced into action when Terry opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run. Griffin fouled out on a 50/50 call with 3:47 to go, and Fondren picked up her fifth with 1:20 left and South Panola trailing 43-37.

“That was something we saw watching film this week,” Buck said. “We knew (Griffin and Fondren) were some of their key players and we knew they had a tendency to get in foul trouble. Our bigs got in foul trouble too, but we had an advantage with our depth and that really helped us pull it out.”

Fondren had a game-high 23 points when she fouled out. Griffin had to spend much of the second half on the bench and finished with just eight points.

Branson was far from the only hero for Terry. Harmonie Neal and Zion Nelson both chipped in 10 points.

“I love this group of girls,” Terry coach Ruth Buck said. “They play hard, and we told them going into the fourth quarter that it was our time. Our nerves were hitting early in the game — I mean, this was a huge stage for us — but after that third quarter and going into the fourth, we were ready to roll.”