Rocking chair is best seat in gym

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

In some 35 years of covering high school basketball, we havewitnessed games from a variety of locations and positions. We havesat on the floor, sat in chairs, (metal, wood and cushioned), satin the (ugh) bleachers and even stood up, all the way through atriple-overtime thriller.

Yours truly encountered a first at Adams County Christian Schoollast Saturday in Natchez. We covered the MPSA South State AATournament championship from a rocking chair. To be honest, it wasquite comfortable.

The ACCS gymnasium’s stage, located at one end of the basketballfloor, was decorated with an antebellum motif. It served as thehospitality lounge for visiting coaches, administrators, teachersand media types. A sweet lady, wearing a vintage, NatchezPilgrimage dress, swirled among the small tables, smiling andseeing to the needs of each diner. Live moss hung from the raftersabove the stage.

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For sure, it was a unique setting. ACCS headmaster John Gray andhis wife, Marie, warmly welcomed us to the tournament. They hadworked at Brookhaven Academy for 25 years so we knew them quitewell.

Brookhaven Academy is hosting the AA state tournament this weekand the gym has been beautifully decorated with a nautical/tropicalmotif. The hospitality lounge features fake grass floor mats, palmtrees and a miniature waterfall.

By coincidence, the elder Gray’s Lady Rebels were in the Southfinals against his son Barry’s powerful BA Lady Cougars. Theteacher/pupil and father/son relationship fostered plenty ofrespect from both sides.

Barry’s girls won by 26 points. There was a joke passed aroundthe gym about losing his inheritance, but it was all in good fun.The Grays often play golf together and compete in tournaments,usually finishing near the top.

John Gray’s girls won the District 3-AA Tournament title withjust one senior in the starting lineup. The future looks bright forthe Lady Rebels.

Meanwhile, Barry Gray’s girls have won nine straight District4-AA championships and seven straight South State crowns. This weekthe Lady Cougars (34-1) are chasing a fourth consecutive AA statetourney title.

Certainly, the Lady Cougars are an outstanding team. There arefour seniors in the starting lineup and five seniors on the squad.The BA team finished 43-0 last year and won the Overall Tournamentcrown.

This season, BA’s only loss was at home to Jackson Prep inovertime. They avenged that setback three weeks ago.

The Lady Cougars are recognized most for their quickness,defense, team play and balanced scoring. The seniors are guardsKelli Byrd, Lauren Smith and Mallory Logan and centers KristianDavison and Allyson Pickett. Junior forward Emily Langley works inthe fifth spot.

It’s easy to lavish praise on this talented group. They are oneof those special teams that come along every 20 or so years. Youenjoy watching them play the game of basketball.

Gray’s accomplishments at BA are many. He has an overall recordof 325-55 (.865) in 10 seasons with the Lady Cougars. That includes5 state championships and 1 Overall title.

Meanwhile, the BA boys have asserted themselves this season.They are 32-1 on the season and favored to win the AA statetitle.

Coached by Dale Watts, the Cougars annually produce outstandingteams. This season’s edition features one senior starter in guardCole Hodges. The other starters are junior guards Jeremy Winborne,and Alan Gray, junior center Seth Davis and sophomore forward T-BoyLynch.

The Cougars also rely on pressure, man-to-man defense. Davis, aslender 6-foot-5; and Hodges, at 6-0, are the tallest players inthe starting quintet.

Watts, who trains racking and Tennessee walking horses when he’snot coaching basketball, has been in the business a long time. He’sregarded as one of the best coaches in the Magnolia State.

His Cougars won the state AA championship in 2003. When hecoached at McComb Parklane, Watts led the Pioneers to Overallcrowns in 1982 and 1990.

Folks believe the Cougars have a legitimate chance at winningthe Overall crown next week at Mississippi College in Clinton. Thefirst order of business is winning the AA title Saturday night inJohn R. Gray Gymnasium.

Stay tuned.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or