• 55°

2018’s biggest local sports stories, part 1

We’ll start 2019 off with a look back at the 10 biggest local sports stories of last year. Today is a look at the first five.

BA Cougars sweep MAIS hoops titles

The rafters of John R. Gray Gymnasium gained two new banners in late February when the Brookhaven Academy Cougars won a pair of MAIS AA State Basketball titles with a sweep of Marshall Academy.

In the girls’ game the Lady Cougars defeated Marshall 51-40 to capture their first state title since 2005. BA led 20-9 at halftime before a Marshall comeback had the Cougar home crowd unsure of the outcome.

With just over three minutes remaining the teams were locked in a 37-37 tie. With 21 seconds left BA had just grabbed a 43-40 lead when Marshall self-destructed. A foul called on the Lady Patriots was followed by a technical foul earned by their coach spiking her clipboard. That allowed the Lady Cougars to ice the game from the free-throw line.

Jana Case scored a team high 26 points to lead the Lady Cougars (31-7). Her father and head coach — Jason Case — won his first state championship as a coach after winning back-to-back titles as a player at West Lincoln in the early 80s.

In their semifinal game against Lamar Christian the Lady Cougars beat a team that had defeated them 47-42 in the South State Tournament just one week before. In their semifinal win the Lady Cougars defeated Lamar Christian 42-33 and were again led by Case offensively, this time with 22 points.

The boys’ game was another nail biter as the Cougars (35-3) held off Marshall 33-30 to capture their first title since 2010. It was also the first state championship for Cougar coach Josh Watts after his team finished as AAA runners-up just a year before.

Senior Ethan Nations led the Cougars with 14 points against Marshall. For the Cougars the title was really won in their semifinal matchup with Greenville-St. Joseph, a game won by BA 49-47 in double overtime. Again, it was Nations leading the BA offense in that game with 18 points.

Aubrey Britt captures back-to-back 2A XC titles

Lincoln County is home to one of the best cross-country runners in the state — and she’s only getting faster. Loyd Star freshman Aubrey Britt won her second consecutive MHSAA 2A Cross Country State Championship on Nov. 5 at Choctaw Trails in Clinton.

Britt ran side by side with her closest competition — Mia Card of Baldwyn High — for most of the race. Then — as they approached the incline that rises towards the finish line — Britt kicked into another gear to win the first-place medal by 15 seconds.

The time of 20 minutes flat in the 5K race was 50 seconds faster than the time Britt ran in 2017 to capture her first medal.

Peavey comes back to lead Brookhaven Panthers

Brookhaven High head football coach Tommy Clopton stepped away from the sidelines in January after leading the Panthers for seven years. Clopton’s desire was to focus on watching his son Trace play for the Southern Miss football team.

When Clopton moved into a full-time assistant principal/athletic director role, it allowed a familiar face to return to the sidelines at King Field. In March BHS made it official when Southwest Mississippi Community College head coach Tucker Peavey was hired to lead the Panthers.

Peavey had previously gone 74-32 as the head coach at BHS from 2002-2010. His 2004 team won the 4A state title and his 2010 team lost in the 5A finals.

Peavey initially left BHS for a position as the offensive line coach at Southern Miss. Wade Henderson succeeded Peavey for one season before resigning and being replaced with Clopton. A BHS alum, Peavey led the Panthers to a 7-6 record in 2018.

Hornets win football region for the first time since 2003

The Loyd Star Hornets finished with a 4-0 record in Region 7-2A to capture their first division title since the 2003 season.

The Hornets (7-4) started region play with a 42-30 Possum Bowl win over Bogue Chitto. Next the Hornets and head coach Brian Ford beat Amite County in a 50-46 shootout. Amite County previously had a 20-game win streak over Lincoln County teams before the Hornets victory. Loyd Star then sewed the region up with a 61-22 win over Enterprise in the Sting Bowl and a 36-16 victory over West Lincoln in the regular season finale.

Mize eliminated the Hornets 36-34 in the opening round of the playoffs. The 2009 Loyd Star team finished 10-2 but were second in their division behind Puckett. The last region title for the Hornets came in 2003 under former coach Sidney Wheatley.

Senior quarterback Dane Smith threw for over 1,000 yards and tossed 11 TDs in 2018. Sophomore running back Eric Birch ran for a team high 814 yards while scoring 15 rushing touchdowns. Seniors Braden Ezell and Zach Nevels led the team in tackles and the Hornets had one of the most physical offensive lines in the area.

Loyd Star relied heavily on a 15-man senior class that helped turn the team around from a 4-7 record last season to a 7-4 finish in 2018.

Lawrence County picks alum Anderson to lead football team

After 13 years as an assistant in Monticello, Jesse Anderson got his dream job at his alma mater in 2018. Former Lawrence County head coach Jaymie Palmer stepped down after leading the program for four seasons. Palmer — who was also an LC alum — had a career record of 26-23 that was highlighted by a 2015 team that finished 13-2 and south state runners-up.

Anderson was picked to lead the Lawrence County High program and had previous experience as the head coach at Rod Paige Middle School in Monticello as well as his time spent as an LCHS assistant coach. His first game in charge of the varsity program saw the Cougars run past North Pike for a 53-27 season opening win.

Lawrence County finished 7-5 before being eliminated 38-35 by Florence in the opening round of the 4A playoffs.

Story by Cliff Furr