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6A Playoffs: Brandon headed to the Big House after 60-50 win over Northwest Rankin

Ismail Rashid scored 10 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs advanced to the Semifinals

FLOWOOD — It’s hard to beat the same opponent team three times in one season, but Brandon wasn’t going to be denied against their rivals from Northwest Rankin Saturday night.

The Bulldogs erased a third-quarter deficit to beat the Cougars 60-50 in the Quarterfinal Round of the MHSAA Class 6A Boys Basketball Tournament.

With the win, the Bulldogs (25-6) advance to the Semifinal Round, where they’ll face defending 6A champion Clinton. Tip off is set for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Brandon coach Fred Barnes said. “The first time we played (Northwest Rankin), they had us down 15 in the first half and we rallied for a three-point win. I told the guys before the game that this was their big chance to break through as a program and they were going to be hungry.”

For the first 20 minutes of the game, it looked like the Cougars were ready to do just that.

The two teams traded three-pointers early and played to a 6-6 tie halfway through the first quarter, but the Cougars finished the quarter on a 7-4 run to take a 13-10 lead headed into the second quarter.

They picked up right where they left off after the break — Mar’Kavian Evans drilled a three-pointer and Kemauri Oscar deposited a nifty layup to put the Cougars ahead 20-12 just two minutes into the second quarter.

But Brandon senior Isaiah Morey hit a jumper to stop the bleeding, and LeDarion Perkins drilled a three-pointer to cut the Cougar lead to 22-19.

Northwest Rankin stretched that back to 27-21, but Terrell Dixon hit a layup, Morey made a free throw and Christian Melvin got a put-back to trim the Cougars halftime lead to 27-26.

“I told our seniors at halftime we were going to have to keep playing our game,” Barnes said. “We did a good job defensively in the first half, but we weren’t scoring the way we should have been scoring.”

Those shots started to fall in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs trailed 36-35 half way through, but Dixon hit a layup to give Brandon the lead and ignite a 10-0 run that Perkins finished with back-to-back three-pointers from the corner.

Perkins, who transferred from Northwest Rankin to Brandon this year, said it was only a matter of time before the Bulldogs broke through offensively.

“I was going against my old teammates, so it got heated,” the 6-foot-3 senior said. “They kept leaving me open for that corner three and I knew I had to make those shots.”

The Bulldogs controlled the game from that point. Northwest Rankin cut the lead to 45-38 to start the fourth quarter, but Brandon’s star forward Ismail Rashid came alive and scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.

Dixon threw down a monstrous dunk as time expired on the 60-50 win.

Dixon finished with 14 points to lead the Bulldogs. Perkins scored 13 and Melvin and Rashid both chipped in 10.

Asked if losing in the third round to Harrison Central last season made Saturdays win any sweeter, Rashid didn’t mince words.

“Oh yeah it makes it sweeter,” he said. “This is what we worked all off-season and worked so hard for."

The loss was a hard one to swallow for Northwest Rankin (22-8), which was playing with a first-ever trip to the Mississippi Coliseum on the line after winning its first Region 6-6A regular-season title.

LeVionne Lindsey scored 21 points for the Cougars on what turned out to be a tough night for the black and gold shooting the rock.

“It’s tough when you get into the fourth quarter and you are having trouble scoring buckets,” Northwest Rankin coach Josh Luckett said. “We played fairly well defensively in the first half, but we have had a tendency to make some boneheaded plays when we are playing with the lead in the second half, and that’s what you saw in that third quarter.”