By Dalton Middleton
For Corinth Today
JACKSON – On the cusp of the playing in the MHSAA Class 3A state championship for the first time since 1993, Kossuth freshman Zoe Essary stepped up and delivered a performance beyond her age.
Essary finished with a season-high 25 points and 14 rebounds as Kossuth defeated Forest 64-59 in the semifinals of the 3A state tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Kossuth (24-7) will play the winner of the Choctaw Central and Belmont in the 3A championship on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Essary had 14 points in the first half, including two big 3-pointers, then hit a layup and drained 9 of her 10 free throw attempts in the second half.
“Honestly, my team just gave me the ball and we needed someone to score,” Essary said. “I just took it upon myself to drive. They got me the passes and I wanted to prove myself to them.”
Forest took control early, and was dominating the offensive glass, but Essary and Katelyn Bumpas each hit 3-pointers to give Kossuth a 15-12 lead after the first period.
Kossuth put Faith Williamson back into the game in the second quarter to balance the rebounding situation, and the junior delivered. She grabbed three rebounds and scored seven points to put Kossuth up eight points at the break.
“She neutralized it,” Kossuth coach Angie Malone said. “I told her she had to step up and get those boards for us. I challenged her and she came through in the challenge.”
In the second half, Kossuth turned to its bread and butter for the win – free throws.
Kossuth is an 85 percent free throw shooting team, and the Lady Aggies made 26 of their 32 free throw attempts in the second half, and fouled out two Forest players by the end of the game.
Morgan Hodum, playing the second half with four fouls, hit all five of her free throw attempts down the stretch.
Turning Point: Up 52-51 with 4:10 left, Kossuth made 12 of its 14 free throws to pull away.
Point Maker: Essary shot 6 of 14 from the floor and 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
Talking Point: “We are going to try our best to finish the job. Whatever it takes, we are going to have to adjust on the fly. We’ve got one more game,” Malone said of playing in the championship game.