BA bags big wins on the court and in public relations

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 3, 2003

Brookhaven Academy worked overtime to make the MPSA Class AAState Basketball Tournament a rousing success. Crowds packed JohnR. Gray Gymnasium to the rafters last week, especially for thesemifinals and finals.

To make it even more rewarding for the hosts, the BrookhavenAcademy Cougars and Lady Cougars both won state championships. Andthey won impressively.

Congratulations to Coach Dale Watts and his Cougars and to CoachBarry Gray and his Lady Cougars. For the boys, it was their firststate basketball title since 1981. For the girls, it was theirfourth state title in five years.

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We appreciate the warm hospitality shown us by BA headmaster DanBoyce and high school principal Ray Ishee. They made me and mywife, Laurie, feel welcome. The remodeled gym looks great and theskybox, located behind the west goal, provided some delicious foodfor visiting coaches, teachers and media types.

For sure, it was an exhausting job hosting the state tournamentbut they did it right. It was first class all the way. There wasplenty of uniformed security so folks didn’t have to worry aboutany outbreak of violence or a nasty disturbance.

If you enjoy good basketball, the AA tournament was the onlygame in town. This was the first time in many years that areapublic school teams failed to get past the first round of the SouthMississippi playoffs.

According to Boyce, over 5,000 tickets were sold during theweek. Throw in several hundred school officials and the numbersrise to 6,000.

That means a lot of local folks looking for a basketball fixfound their way to Gray’s gym. John R., and his wife, Marie, madeseveral games. John is in his first year as headmaster at AdamsCounty Christian School in Natchez. They usually come home toBrookhaven on weekends.

Another tremendous crowd was on hand Wednesday night to watchthe Brookhaven teams battle in the quarterfinals for the MPSAOverall Tournament titles. A.E. Wood Coliseum on the MississippiCollege campus in Clinton was packed with basketball fans.Certainly, Hillcrest Christian and Jackson Prep brought a largecontingent to the evening twinbill but Brookhaven’s faithful wereloud and strong in their support, too.

Unfortunately, BA’s greatest basketball season came to acrashing conclusion last night. The Cougars lost a triple overtimethriller and the Lady Cougars fell to Jackson Prep.

The Mississippi College Choctaws and Lady Choctaws are on thewarpath this weekend as the American Southwest Tournaments getunder way in Texas. The Choctaws (17-7, 9-3) play Sul Ross at 5:30p.m. Friday, in Marshall. The Lady Chocs (21-3, 12-0), ASC EastDivision champions, are in Abilene to play Mary Hardin BaylorFriday, also at 5:30.

Championship finals are Saturday, 2 p.m. for the men and 6 p.m.for the women.

The Chocs, coached by Brookhaven native Don Lofton, almost wonthe right to host the ASC tourney this weekend. Last Saturday, a77-72 overtime loss to East Texas Baptist at Marshall, decided theEast champion and the tournament site. It made the ride back toClinton seem longer than usual.

Sul Ross is the West Division champion.

ASC tourney champions receive an automatic bid and advance tothe NCAA Division III Tournament. They will host opening round NCAAgames on March 6. Happy 33rd anniversary, Laurie!

West Division champion Hardin-Simmons (24-0) plays Eastrunner-up LeTourneau in the other women’s game.

Besides Lofton, there is more local interest in the MC men’steam. Junior guard Chad Smith of Brookhaven (Academy) starts forthe Choctaws and averages 8.3 points per game. Reserve post playerB.J. Black of Bogue Chitto and Brookhaven averages 5.8 points and3.2 rebounds per game.

Smith and Black both played for Copiah-Lincoln Community Collegelast season.

The Lady Chocs are loaded with local interest. They are led byfreshman power forward Lacey Palomarez of Enterprise, a 4-time ASCPlayer of the Week. Last week she averaged 22 points, 7.5 reboundsand 3.5 steals in two games, earning her PW honors.

Guard Rusti Smith of Brookhaven (West Lincoln) is the onlysenior on Coach Paul Allen Duke’s squad. She averages 3.5 points.2.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Sophomore point guard Katie Newman, the reigning MissHospitality of Mississippi, averages 3.7 points 2.9 assists pergame. She is a Brookhaven Academy grad.

Hopefully, MC will bring home some championship trophies thisweekend.