Thursday, March 2, 2005

State Tournament time
  • Byers earns fifth straight trip


H.W. Byers returned to familiar territory this week – the State Tournament.

The Lions finished number two in the North Half Tournament, losing 43-42 to host Hickory Flat in the finals Saturday night.

“I have a young team, and this was a tough environment tonight,” said head coach Gerone Kirkland after the game.

Byers had beaten Hickory Flat 74-41 a week earlier in the championship game of the Region 2-1A Tournament at West Union.

“I knew it would be a different ball game in their place – a different story,” Kirkland said.

Kirkland is taking his Lions (22-12) to Mississippi Coliseum, also known as “The Big House,” for the fifth consecutive year. They faced Greenville St. Joseph on Monday afternoon of this week.

“At the start of the season I never thought we’d be in this position,” Kirkland said.

He lost 10 seniors from last year’s squad, which was state runner-up in Class 1A.

“I’m more satisfied with this group than any I’ve taken down there,” Kirkland said. “I have three seniors, three sophomores, three juniors and three freshmen.”

Byers trailed Hickory Flat 22-16 at the half and fell behind by 11 with 6:07 to go in the third. They were down 34-26 after three periods.

But they battled back. Nick Tate’s three -pointer cut the deficit to 36-31 with 6:11 left in the game.

Bradley Coleman scored on a putback at the 5:46 mark, and the Lions were down 36-35.

Tate connected on another “three” with 3:18 remaining to put Byers on top 41-38.

“We changed things up and got more aggressive,” Kirkland said. “Plus we took some more shots from the outside. Nick (Tate) is just a freshman, and he made some big shots.”

That score held until Hickory Flat’s Jamarus Mitchell sank a long “three” of his own to knot the game at 41 with 49 seconds to go.

The Lions had possession and was seeking the last shot when Rebel player Quinterio Mitchell stole the ball and was fouled on a lay-up attempt.

“That turnover hurt us more than anything,” Kirkland said.

Q. Mitchell hit both free throws and Hickory Flat led 43-41.

Johnny Shaw of Byers, a senior, was then fouled on a shot near the goal with three seconds to go. He hit the first and missed the second.

“Johnny has made some big ones for us,” Kirkland said. “That one just didn’t fall. He’s the man we wanted on the line in that situation.”

Tate’s 12 points led Byers. Coleman followed with nine.

J. Mitchell was the top gun for Hickory Flat. He had 13 points.

Hickory Flat (29-8) receives a bye in the State Tournament. The Rebels, under the guidance of first-year head coach Brad Gray, will meet the McAdams-Potts Camp winner Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the semi-finals.

Byers routed DeSoto Central 69-36 in the semi-finals of the North State Tournament on Friday night.

The Lions leaped to a 19-4 advantage after one period and never looked back.

Shaw was the hot shooter with 21 points. Coleman and Marcus Gorman were close behind with 15 points each.

The quarter-final victory was a little bit tighter. The Lions knocked off East Oktibbeha 69-52 on Thursday evening in the tourney at Hickory Flat.

Byers trailed 15-14 following the opening quarter but outscored the opposition 18-6 in the second period to take control.

Shaw lit up the scoreboard with a game-high 28 points. Nine Lions scored in the balanced offensive attack.

The Lions had tipped off North State play at home on Tuesday night of last week with a 74-50 victory over Walnut.

The Lions found themselves down after the first quarter, 23-20, but they dominated the rest of the way. They outscored Walnut 54-27 in the remaining three periods.

Four Byers players connected for double-digit scoring – Shaw with 24 points, Gorman with 18, Jeremy Robinson with 17 and Coleman with 10.

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