Thursday, December 20, 2007
At least 10 people walked by me Saturday night and said something like, “Are you getting all of this for the newspaper? This is history.”
Some were basketball fans. Some probably weren’t – they were in attendance because it was just that – an historic occasion in Marshall County.
In fact, the Daily Journal, based in Tupelo, stated in a weekend story that it was believed to be a first for northeast Mississippi.
Public school, Potts Camp, played private school, Marshall Academy, on the basketball court. The Mississippi Private School Association and the Mississippi High School Activities Association have OK’d such matchups. It happened in football in the Jackson area this past season.
Saturday night, prior to the tipoff of the girls’ game, public address announcer Mackey Rodgers called it a “ground-breaking activity.”
Fans on both sides of the MA gymnasium applauded.
I particularly liked that show of unity.
“It’s good for the community,” said Tim Carter, who recently took over as principal of Potts Camp School. “It brings people together and builds relationships.
“I know some people are for it and some are against it.
“Hey, we’re playing good basketball tonight. There’s a lot of talent on the floor for both schools.”
And more than anything else, this is about the kids, their future and the future of Marshall County.
“The kids are making a big deal out of it,” said Tana Miller, in her first year as coach of the Lady Cardinals. “They get to match up with players they already know; they’re in the same county.
“It’s really a good opportunity for the kids, being so close (Marshall Academy and Potts Camp). Plus, we get the opportunity to play a team we normally don’t get the chance to play.”
I kept notes as the games unraveled Saturday night. But I also kept an eye on the fans, who almost filled the Marshall gym to capacity. I saw and heard lots of support from both sides – all in good sportsmanship. Sure, there was shouting at the game officials on occasion – but that’s an every game thing, too, be it public vs. public or private vs. private.
Some had touted this as building a new rivalry. It could happen.
It appeared to match the intensity of a Potts Camp versus H.W. Byers game or a Marshall Academy vs. Lee (Clarksdale) contest.
The point is – the good things I witnessed Saturday night match the good things about any high school sports matchup between good teams and good schools.
“If there’s good interest and a packed crowd, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be a good thing,” said Brian Smith, head coach of the Potts Camp boys. “It’s hard for us to schedule games, and this gives us a chance to play somebody when it’s not a long drive.”
The two schools are approximately 13 miles apart.
“I think this is great for the community,” said Marshall Academy Headmaster Jane Hubbard, watching the games with her family. “It’s great for us to interact and for the kids to play each other. A lot of these kids already knew each other.”
Craig Dailey, head coach of the Patriots and Lady Patriots, called it a “great atmosphere.”
He hopes it can become an annual matchup.
Smith said he’d definitely like a holiday-time tradition established.
“I’m all for it, even though I didn’t like being on the losing end,” he said with a laugh.
The Marshall boys won by three points. The Potts Camp girls won by 19.
But trust me – the scores Saturday night were not the most important aspect of these games.
These games were about breaking a barrier.
These games were about togetherness.
These games were about the kids.
These games were history.
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