Twin Towers standing tall on DAILY LEADER’s Dream Team

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 2, 2007

Brookhaven junior post players Nikki Byrd and Swayze Black don’tmind being called The Twin Towers. In fact, they enjoy the loftyhandle.

The 6-foot-2 Byrd and the 6-foot-1 Black were instrumental inleading the Ole Brook Lady Panthers to the state playoffs and arunners-up finish in the Class 4A State Tournament. For theirefforts, they have been selected The DAILY LEADER’s Co-Players ofthe Year on the 2007 All-Lincoln County Girls Basketball Team.

Joining them on the DL’s Dream Team are Kimberlee Thomas andShasta Porter of Bogue Chitto, Shannon Chester and Haley Sones ofLoyd Star, and Betsy Lynch and Drew Holland Tigner of BrookhavenAcademy. The team was selected by the DL sports staff, with inputprovided by area high school and college coaches.

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“I enjoy it,” answered Black with a grin, when asked about theTwin Towers label. Byrd agreed.

They helped lead Coach Freda Craft’s Lady Panthers to a 32-6record. They won the Division 6-4A and South Mississippi 4ATournament titles. In the state championship game, they lost a54-48 decision to Indianola Gentry which went on to win the GrandSlam and finish 40-0.

Black, the daughter of Willie and Dorothy Black, is anall-around athlete. She averaged 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds thisseason.

“I’m not satisfied with the way our season ended but we stillhad a good year,” said Black.

“Overall, we had a good season,” said Byrd. She averaged 18.3points and 10.1 rebounds per game. She is the daughter of IreneKinnison.

Both girls agreed that Indianola Gentry was the strongest teamthey faced this season. Last season Gentry beat them in thequarterfinals. Gentry was led by all-state point guard Sarita (Bug)Cooper.

“You never knew what Cooper was going to do,” said Byrd. “Shecould either drive the lane or dish it off. She is the best wefaced.”

Both girls said they had trouble adjusting to Craft and herdemanding work ethic. “Coach Craft is tough,” said Black. “We arebeginning to jell with her.”

Byrd complimented Craft’s lofty goals. “She made me a betterplayer.”

Looking to the future, Byrd and Black will both participate inthis summer’s Mississippi Association of Coaches All-StarBasketball Game. The format features rising seniors.

They are on the priority list of college recruiters who havemade many visits to Sinclair Gymnasium. They both said they areundecided on their choice of colleges.

“I couldn’t tell you my top 20,” said Byrd. “I’m enjoying theride.”

By comparison, Black said she’s “not thinking too much” abouther college preference.

This season, Byrd had a career-high 35 points against PortGibson. Black scored 24 points against Lawrence County.

Asked to describe her teammate in the paint, Black said, “Nikkican dominate the game when she plays hard.”

Byrd grinned and said, “Swayze is very athletic. She has theability to find me.”

In the classroom, Black said she enjoys math when she isn’tthinking about basketball.

“Swayze is very athletic,” said Craft. “She wants the ball whenit’s crunch time. She’s the kind of player that you know you canget more out of.”

Byrd said she enjoys business computer technology classes at theVo-Tech Center.

“Nikki is a very conscientious person,” said Craft. “She has thewill to win and she will work hard to win.”

Kimberlee Thomas (5-9, sr.) was instrumental inleading Bogue Chitto’s Lady ‘Cats to the Class 1A state playoffs.She averaged 15.9 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game forCoach Christi Terrell.

“Kim is an all-around player,” said Terrell. “She has a heartand the desire to win. She works hard, giving 110 percent on andoff the court.”

Drew Holland Tigner (5-11, soph.) directed theLady Cougars to a 36-6 record. They won the District 6-AA and SouthMississippi AA Tournament championships as Tigner averaged 14.4points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals per game.

“Drew is extremely athletic and very agile for a 5-11,” said BAcoach Barry Gray. “She is still developing. We are expecting greatthings from her in the future.”

Shannon Chester (5-7, soph.) was a key to LoydStar’s runner-up finish in the tough Division 6-2A race. They weresecond to Hinds AHS in the division tournament and advanced to thestate playoffs, posting a 20-11 record for Coach JanDelaughter.

Chester used her athletic skills to average 12.3 points, 6rebounds, 4 steals and 2.1 assists per game. She made 45 percent ofher field goal attempts.

“Shannon is very competitive and works hard,” said CoachDelaughter. “She a good defensive player with real quickhands.”

Shasta Porter (6-1, sr.) averaged 13.8 pointsand 8 rebounds per game for the Lady ‘Cats. Much of the season wasplayed with a knee brace on her right leg after straining aligament.

“Shasta is a good athlete who hustles,” said Coach Terrell. “Shewill do everything she can to block out and rebound. She has a goodshot, too.”

Haley Sones (5-11, soph.) was a force insidefor the Lady Hornets. She averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds pergame. She made 49 percent of her field goals.

After sustaining a should injury, she continued playing andhelped Loyd Star make the state playoffs.

“Haley works hard to improve,” said Coach Delaughter. “She has agood shot inside. She won some games for us with her insideplay.”

Betsy Lynch (5-6, jr.) averaged 13.2 points, 5rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per game for the Lady Cougars. Alate-season torn ACL (her third) knocked Lynch out of the stateplayoffs.

“Betsy is our playmaker,” said Coach Gray. “She’s fast and hasquick feet. She can penetrate on offense and play gooddefense.”


Bogue Chitto: Chelsey Miller, Candace Avants,Latoya Braxton.

Brookhaven: Monte’ Wilson, Kayla Harris,Jermecia Jones, Whitley Shannon.

Brookhaven Academy: Casey Smith, Kelli Snider,Hannah Watts, Kacey Rutland.

Enterprise: Lindsey Everett, Lacey Orr, EricaRutland, Amanda Burke.

Loyd Star: Dakota Brooks, Laura Britt, AieshaJohnson.

West Lincoln: Julie Case, Hannah Knouse. KaceySmith, Tatianna Marshall.