Thursday, March 15, 2007
Byers falls in state semis
By CLAUDE VINSON
The Lady Lions of Byers returned to “The Big House” on Wednesday, March 7, to continue their historic journey through the state playoffs.
Just a few days prior, they had met and dethroned the defending Class 2A champs, the Philadelphia Lady Tornadoes.
Now they would be facing the Lady Panthers of Coahoma County, weighing in at 31-5. The Lady Lions’ own record thus far was 26-10.
As irony would have it, the Lady Tornadoes had bested the Lady Panthers in last season’s 2A finals.
Byers was showing heavy aggression during this contest. They were beating Coahoma up on the defensive end and they were hitting the long ball early. They led by one at the end of the first quarter at 14-13.
The Lady Lions were exhibiting the same poise which was evident in their first game at state. The play was steady and consistent. The offensive formations were solid. The majority of the shots were deliberate and accurate.
Coach Jason Thompson was getting great support from his bench. Brittany Todd came in and popped a trey almost immediately. Amanda Jones hit the floor and hit a deuce and a three. They ran their lead to 35-30 at intermission.
It became evident early that the key to the Lady Panthers’ success would be largely due to the output of Tanesha Washington. All the Lady Lions neded to do was restrain Washington. But they were having difficulty in doing just that. Washington was using her height advantage to grab the high lobbed passes and turn them into points via the short turnaround jumper which came to be her trademark.
Meanwhile, Byers’ Simone Ryan was claiming her share of the defensive rebounds and kicking them out to the wings.
The Lady Lions, who had led for most of three quarters, saw the Lady Panthers pull even at quarter’s end, 49-49.
The fourth quarter saw Coahoma slowly pulling away from the Lady Lions. Byers long ball shooting had gone cold until Jones revived it to cut Coahoma’s lead to six at 64-58.
Byers was in foul trouble and nine points down with less than a half minute remaining. The Lady Lions had to foul to get possession because Coahoma went to a stalling box and one.
Time ran out and the Lady Panthers went on to face Coldwater Lady Cougars in the finals after the 69-58 win.
The Lady Lions had performed remarkably well throughout the season, winning big game after big game.
Leading scorers for Byers in this final game of the season were Marian Parker and Rachel Jones with 11 each, Simone Ryan and Ciara Seldon with 10 apiece. Others contributing points were Symone Gorman with eight, Brittany Todd with three, Amanda Jones with three and Latasha Anderson with two.
Washington led all shooters with 30. Teammates Jalisa Pointer and Radius Collins had 15 and 10, respectively.
Coahoma County shot 26 free throws in the second half to none for Byers. The Lady Panthers hit 20 of those, 18 in the fourth quarter.
“We held them to just one basket in the fourth,” Thompson said. “It’s unfortunate that it was a good ball game for 27 minutes and then it turned into a free-throw clinic by one team.”
The Lady Panthers lost to Coldwater 62-61 in Saturday’s state title contest.
He praised his team for its tremendous season, 26-11.
“We had a great run,” Thompson said. “We got close to the finish line. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t muster up enough to pull it out. I liked our chances (versus Coahoma County).
“We were not spooked by playing in ‘The Big House.’ We came in and played hard and gave it our best shot.”
Byers will graduate four seniors – Brittany Todd, Latasha Anderson, Jessica Smith and Lanika Hale.
“I hope we have another chance (next season) to make another run,” Thompson said.
He said after the semi-final loss he told his girls to take a break; however, the next day he saw them in the gym, begin competitive once again.
“That speaks volumens,” he said. “It’s a credit to these kids.”
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