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Jade Rucker leads Tupelo past Northwest Rankin in MHSAA 7A Semifinals

After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, Rucker made a huge splash in her Big House debut

Tupelo is heading back to the MHSAA Class 7A state title game, but this time, Jade Rucker is healthy.

After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, Rucker rocked the 'Big House' Thursday morning with a double-double as the Lady Wave held off Northwest Rankin 54-48 in the Semifinal Round of the MHSAA Girls Class 7A Basketball playoffs.

Tupelo (19-10) will face the Germantown for the Class 7A State Championship on at 6 p.m. Saturday.

MORE: MHSAA Class 7A Girls Basketball Tournament Bracket

“We’ve been in tight games all season and we’ve been hit in the mouth early,” Tupelo coach Matt Justice said. “So we told the players to just calm down and answer back, and we did. I’m proud of the girls for overcoming their big start by responding in the second quarter and having a big third quarter.”

Northwest Rankin (22-11) jumped out to a 16-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Tupelo responded with a 10-2 run to begin the second quarter to cut the Lady Cougar lead down to 18-14 and to end the first half Nadia Norfleet and Bailey Siddell each had a steal and lay-up to cut the Northwest Rankin lead to 26-24 at halftime.

Third quarter was the difference, as the Lady Wave outscored Northwest Rankin 23-5 to take a commanding 47-31 lead. Tupelo opened the third quarter on a 15-4 run to take a 39-30 lead.

“At halftime, we have goals where we want to be at in certain parts of the game,” Justice said. “Being down two at half, we wanted to ramp up the pressure in the half court, take away their driving lanes and we did a good job of getting steals and just exploding after that. Jade and Nadia both got going during the course of the game and did a good job with their roles and attacking. We’re exciting to be back in the championship and whoever we play it will be a battle.”

Rucker had a game-high 20 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and three blocks to lead Tupelo. Norfleet added 15 points for the Lady Wave. 

“We’ve been here before as a team," Rucker said. "But it was my first time playing here so we had to come together and play well in the second half. It feels really good to be playing in the state championship after missing all of last year.”

Malia McCelleis had 18 points to lead Northwest Rankin, while Jordyn Crumedy and Khanyla Hooten each added 13 points for the Lady Cougars.

“We came out ready to play and hit some adversity in the third quarter, turned the ball over and struggled to score for a bit,” said Northwest Rankin coach Jalessa Taylor. “This was a learning experience for us. We got everyone coming back except one, so the future is bright.”