By Dalton Middleton
For Corinth Today
JACKSON – For the first time in school history, the Kossuth Lady Aggies are the champions of Class 3A.
Kossuth overcame a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Belmont 48-44 on Saturday in the MHSAA Class 3A state championship. The Lady Aggies forced 11 turnovers in the fourth quarter and held Belmont to only four points over the last four minutes of the game.
This was Kossuth’s first appearance in the state championship since 1993, current coach Angie Malone’s senior year of high school.
“At the end of the game, I just broke down once that buzzer went off,” Malone said. “All the emotions were going through like, I knew this team had it. Every time I’ve challenged them, they’ve come through. …
“Not to be able to do it as a senior, it really hurt and I never have forgotten what it feels like. I tried to tell the girls that you’re not going to like that feeling if we don’t go out and get this game because it happens once in a lifetime.”
Kossuth (25-7) was down 13 points, 37-24, with 5:44 left in the game when Malone said she looked at each of her players individually and told them what was about to happen if they didn’t step up.
“I challenged each one of them. I got into their eyes and I could tell they were ready,” Malone said.
After that, senior Morgan Hodum cut the lead to 10 points, then freshman Zoe Essary scored nine straight points for the Lady Aggies to cut the lead to five points.
After another shot cut the lead to three points, Hodum got a steal, dribbled down the court, and pulled up on a deep 3-pointer to tie the game with 22 seconds left.
“I really don’t know, the grace of God was just with me on that shot,” Hodum said. “I practice those shots but that was it.”
After Hodum’s 3-pointer tied the game, Kossuth forced a turnover on the inbounds play, a steal by Regan Bobo, who passed the ball to Essary for the game-winning layup with 16 seconds left.
Hodum finished with 16 points. For Belmont (25-9), Macie Walker scored 13 points and Abby Kuykendall added 11.
Turning Point: Down seven points, Kossuth ended the game on a 11-0 run over the course of the last 97 seconds.
Point Maker: Essary finished 6 of 12 shooting for 20 points and added 4 steals.
Talking Point: “I always say that victory favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes and today we just made a few more mistakes than Kossuth did. We turned the ball over a few straight possessions and those turnovers changed the whole game.” – Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom.