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State tourneys draw local fans

Where ya’ goin’ Saturday?

     “I’m going to Jackson to see the Bogue Chitto girls play.”

     “I’m going to the Big House to see the West Lincoln boys play.”

     “I’m driving to Grenada Kirk to see Brookhaven Academy’s boys and girls play.”

     Right on!

     For the unknowing reader, the above mentioned basketball teams are in elite company at their respective state tournaments. They are among the best in Mississippi and deserve your enthusiastic support.

     However, in an energy-saving effort, it would be best to carpool or charter a bus to help defray expenses. The price of gasoline continues to skyrocket and the fumes are intoxicating.

     For sure, it is an exciting time of the year. Basketball fans love their teams and they ooze enthusiastic support. Students actually dye their hair the school colors. Windows on cars and trucks are painted wild colors, listing the team’s players and jersey numbers.

     March Madness arrives a week early for the high school basketball fan.

    

     Brookhaven Academy cleared the first hurdle in the MAIS Class AA State Tournament at Grenada Kirk. Both the Cougars and Lady Cougars were Tuesday night winners over Leake and North Delta respectively.

     Next up are Friday’s semifinals. The Lady Cougars (31-6) play Bowling Green. The Cougars (31-3) play that night at 7:15 against Bowling Green

     Win or lose, both BA teams will play Saturday either in the consolation or championship games. The tradition-rich program continues producing exceptional teams who are capable of winning state titles.

     Coach Dale Watts is seeking another state championship. His Cougars won six straight state titles before losing out last season. Obviously, they are skilled in basketball fundamentals. Watts begins coaching them in the seventh grade and the teams steadily grow smarter and  stronger.

     Watts has a veteran team, led by seniors Brock Smith, Brennan Miller and Christian (Bubba) Keen, and juniors Gage Posey, Matthew Evans and sophomore Zach Smith. They also have some depth.

     The Lady Cougars are under the direction of first-year coach Ginger Duease. Two all-state starters, guard Terah Winborne and forward Laura Beth Wright, returned from last season’s Overall Tournament champion that finished 31-4. Junior center Carey Crozier and sophomores Madison Warren, Destiny Allen and Mary Elizabeth Jordan have stepped up their games and made them championship contenders.

 

     Meanwhile, at Bogue Chitto, the Lady Cats weren’t expected to do very well after losing eight seniors from last season’s state tournament team, including four starters. However, Coach Christi Terrell’s young squad had higher goals and overachieved. They should be congratulated.

     The Lady Cats (20-12) achieved the 20-win plateau with an impressive victory over Stringer’s Lady Red Devils in last Friday’s South Mississippi 1A semifinals at Stringer. They lost to Region 7-1A champion Hinds AHS in the finals.

     As luck would have it, the Lady Cats draw a rematch with H.W. Byers, the team that eliminated them 49-37 from last year’s state tournament. Tipoff is 1 p.m. in Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum. Tickets are $10.

     Terrell’s team finished 30-3 last season. A BC grad, she is in her eighth year at the helm. There is only one senior, Aliyah Durr, on this year’s team and the future looks bright.

     Guard Adrienne Wallace was the lone returning veteran. Newcomers to the starting lineup, like Earlneishia Dillon, Marshonikique Blackwell, Mattie Avants, Rheagan Welch, Zariah Matthews, Lauren Wallace and Christian Black, have made them succeed.

    

     West Lincoln basketball fans are wearing plenty of green, donning green hats and smearing green war paint on their faces as Saturday approaches. This is West Lincoln’s first state tournament appearance in 16 years.

     If you are keeping score, the Bears haven’t won a state title since they won back-to-back crowns under Coach Jack Case in 1981-82. West Lincoln principal Jason Case, the coach’s son, was an MVP on that 1982 team, scoring 50 points in the victory over Wheeler’s Eagles.

     Now it’s a new generation pursuing that glittering gold basketball trophy.  Jason’s son, Jay, played on last year’s West Lincoln team that finished 29-1, falling to Dexter in the South semifinals,  just one win shy of a trip to the state tourney.

     This season the Bears (28-4) are sparked by junior sharpshooter Jared Case, Jay’s younger brother. There is just one senior on the squad in starting forward De Price.

     Also in the starting lineup are junior power forward Lucas Burris, junior guard Darius Clark, sophomore center Sam Bivens and freshman guard Duane Marshall.

     Coach Lane Young is in his ninth year as head coach at West Lincoln. He has assembled a talented squad to chase that elusive gold ball. The Bears will test Coldwater Saturday night at 8 p.m. and there should be a sea of green cheering in the coliseum’s stands.

     Many outstanding teams have made the journey to Jackson from all corners of the Magnolia State only to suffer the upset special. It happens.

     Still, the joy and excitement of an outstanding basketball campaign might seem grim in a veil of tears at the moment, but teenagers recover quicker than most folks. Their sweet memories can be relished for years, no matter what happens in the Big House.

 

     Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tgoetz@dailyleader.com