Byrd, Smith lead All-Lincoln Co. team

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 29, 2004

Brookhaven Academy junior guards Kelli Byrd and Lauren Smithwere instrumental in leading the Lady Cougars to a perfect 43-0record and the MPSA Overall Tournament championship. They arerecognized as Co-Most Valuable Players on The DAILY LEADER’s2003-04 All-Lincoln County Basketball Team.

Joining them on the dream team are Anna Autman of Brookhaven,Shara Johnson of Loyd Star, Meleah Brown of Bogue Chitto, EricaShaw of West Lincoln and Mallory Logan of Brookhaven Academy. Theteam was selected by members of the DL sports staff, with inputprovided by area high school and college coaches.

It was no accident the Lady Cougars achieved a milestone thisseason. Smith and Byrd, also recognized as co-Miss Basketball inLincoln County, quickly point to team chemistry and Coach BarryGray’s work ethic.

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“We grew a lot this year in basketball and spiritually,” saidByrd. “We had a great team and a lot of great memories and a lot offun. We were a close team.”

Byrd, a multi talented 5-4 guard, averaged 15 points, 5rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists this season. She worked hard andher quickness sparkled on defense.

Smith, a 5-5 playmaker, agreed with Byrd when asked about teamchemistry. “We weren’t the most talented and athletic team outthere but we played together. That’s who we are.

“We expected to win and we grew up so much,” Smith added. “CoachGray told us that each one of us had a role. We knew what todo.”

Smith averaged 10 points, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 rebounds pergame. All five starters averaged in double figures.

Byrd said Gray is a unique coach who demands excellence. “I loveplaying for Coach Gray. “He’s a great spiritual leader. He wantedus to put God first in everything we do.”

Asked about Smith, Byrd said, “Lauren is a great point guard.She encourages us.”

Smith said Byrd was an exceptional player, too. “Kelli is awarrior. She plays hard and she’s tough.”

Gray said Byrd is a competitor. “Kelli is probably our strongestand most tenacious athlete. She can drive to the basket.”

Gray said Smith is his coach on the floor. “Lauren is our floorleader. She competes every day in practice and has a greatattitude. Her perimeter shooting is best.”

Anna Autman, a 6-foot senior, was a powerful inside player forthe Brookhaven Lady Panthers who are coached by Billy Holmes. Sheaveraged 16.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, leading her teamto a 22-12 record and a berth in the South State playoffs.

Meleah Brown, a 5-8 sophomore, averaged 19 points and 11rebounds per game for Coach Jason Kennedy’s Lady Bobcats. They wereDivision 7-1A Tournament runners-up and went to the state playoffs,posting a 24-10 record.

Erica Shaw, a 5-8 sophomore, directed West Lincoln to the Class1A State Tournament semifinals. She averaged 11 points, 4 rebounds,2 assists and 2 steals per game for Coach Lane Young’s Lady Bears.They won the Division 7-1A title and made their first statetournament appearance since 1999. West Lincoln finished with a 26-6record.

Shara Johnson, a 5-7 junior, averaged 17.3 points, 8.2 reboundsand 2 assists per game for Loyd Star’ s Lady Hornets. Coach LoriBritt’s girls won the Division 6-2A Tournament and posted an 18-12record.

Mallory Logan, a 5-7 junior, averaged 12 points, 5 assists, 5rebounds and 4 steals per game for the Brookhaven Academy LadyCougars.