• 70°

Lady Panthers sign with Co-Lin

Brookhaven girls basketball coach Billy Holmes smiled knowingly.His blue eyes sparkled with confidence when he discussed the futurebasketball careers of his two senior post players, Anna Autman andKristin McCray.

Autman and McCray both signed basketball scholarships withCopiah-Lincoln Community College Wednesday in Sinclair Gymnasium.Their parents were present for the special moment and you could seethe loving pride reflected in their happy faces.

Call them Twin Towers or Brookhaven’s 1-2 scoring and reboundingpunch. Autman and McCray were integral parts of Brookhaven’s marchto the Class 4A state playoffs.

“They will represent their families and Brookhaven High well,”predicted Holmes. The 62-year-old coach has seen his share ofoutstanding basketball players on the high school and collegelevels. He has even traveled overseas to Greece and Poland duringhis coaching days at Mercer University and UNO.

“Co-Lin is getting two quality basketball players who arededicated to the sport of basketball,” said Holmes. “They were verygood leaders on our team and they are capable of doing the samekind of leadership at Co-Lin.”

Holmes said he could easily see them graduating to a high-levelDivision I program after two years playing for Co-Lin coach GwynYoung. “Co-Lin has one of the top programs in the nation. CoachYoung will help them advance to the next level.”

Besides being students of the game, Autman and McCray are strongstudents in the classroom. They are true student/athletes. McCrayis expected to be among the top five seniors in academics andAutman maintains an above-average GPA.

So, how do these two young ladies play the game ofbasketball?

Having seen them play on numerous occasions, it is certain theyare both strong, physical players who aren’t afraid to swap elbowsand bumps in the lane. They will fight any opponent tooth and nailfor a rebound.

Both 6-footers have a feminine side, too. Autman was elected BHSHomecoming Queen for 2003. On the basketball court she can be aformidable force for opponents to cope with.

McCray is an exceptional athlete who started her basketballcareer late. She already was a standout in track, running the100-meter hurdles and relay events. To put it mildly, she can leapand bring down a rebound in a crowd.

Still, there is a sweet smile which cloaks that tough interior.McCray is undecided on her major but she has several options. “I’vethought about a career in medicine, law and computers. All of themare good.”

Autman is interested in sports medicine. She wants to be anathletic trainer. She and McCray plan to be roommates atCo-Lin.

Holmes said Autman and McCray wil be sorely missed. “Their shoeswill be hard to fill but we have some good young players comingup.”

According to Young, the Brookhaven duo is just what he needs toshore up the post position. He loses Renee Fields, VictoriaRichardson and Lauren Williams who helped lead the Lady Wolves tothe state tournament and the NJCAA Region 23 championship game.

“We lost our top three post players,” said Young. “Anna reboundsand shoots the ball well. Kristin is very athletic and reboundswell. She can run the floor, too.”

Young has a pack of outstanding guards returning, so thedevelopment of new post players is critical. He plans to sign6-foot post Jessica Smith of Marksville, La., plus a few morestandouts.

Also expected to join the Lady Wolves for the 2004-5 campaignare guards Jennifer Carter and LaKeitha Hayes of Magee and AshleyMurphy of Raymond (Central Hinds), plus 5-9 forward LaQuita Ard ofNorth Pike.

The state fastpitch softball playoffs begin Saturday andLawrence County’s Lady Cougars must be considered Class 4A statetitle contenders. They have an outstanding team which has fashioneda 23-5 record this season.

Leading Coach Beronica Stringfellow’s squad is senior pitcherKelly Stokes (23-5), a Delta State University signee. Stokes beattop-ranked Oak Grove twice last week. She tossed no-hitters againstMcComb and South Jones.

Lawrence County will be at home for Saturday’s opening round.Last year the Lady Cougars advanced to the state quarterfinalsbefore losing to East Central, the eventual state champion.

Looking ahead, the Mississippi Association of Coaches hasselected its fastpitch and slowpitch all-star softball teams whowill play June 26 at Newton County. Fastpitch is at noon andslowpitch at 5 p.m.

On the South fastpitch team are Stokes and Gina McCloud ofLawrence County and Megan Bateman of Brookhaven. Named to the Southslowpitch squad was Brittney Alexander of North Pike.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com