Thursday, March 6, 2008
Next stop state title game
By CLAUDE VINSON
Coach Jason Thompson’s Lady Lions found their rhythm in the second half Saturday afternoon.
And that was good news for the H.W. Byers fans, who were a large part of the 1,500 strong who came from different parts of the state to Mississippi Coliseum.
If the first quarter was to be the final indication of how the state tournament semi-final game was played, the news could have been bad.
The Kemper County Lady Wildcats started with a cautious façade. The Lady Lions were having difficulty synchronizing their offensive attack. They were down 8-3 early on. They put on a spurt and then a trey by Rachel Jones brought them even at 10-10 when the first quarter ended.
Multiple Byers miscues in the second allowed the Lady Wildcats to slowly increase their lead. The Lady Lions’ performance was lackluster at best. Kemper County was making the most of its opportunities at the basket. They had a 10-point advantage at intermission, 31-21.
“We were missing the goal a long way in the first half,” Coach Thompson said. “We needed to settle down.”
Whatever lethargic cloak which had enveloped the Lady Lions in the first half was left in the locker room. They put an entirely different team on the floor to begin the third. Their rebounding and accuracy were much improved. They tied it at 31-all on a series of deuces by Rachel Jones. Jones came right back and gave Byers its first lead at the line.
“I knew if we could get into a rhythm, we could turn things around,” Thompson said.
The Lady Wildcats were missing badly. They hit only two points in the third and those came at the foul line. Byers had a thin lead of 34-33 at the end of three.
The fourth was back and forth. The Lady Wildcats didn’t wilt completely. But the Lady Lions were hanging on by the tips of their claws. Simone Ryan, who had been benched by fouls most of the game, re-entered and took the fight to the basket at both ends. Aided by Symone Gorman, they out-rebounded Kemper 18-9. Ryan was also sinking them in the paint.
The Lady Lions virtually walked it out to a six-point lead with Marian Parker hitting six of eight free throws. Then Jones put it on ice with four more freebies.
The Lady Lions won 55-47.
They move on to face the Lady Tornadoes of Philadelphia at 7 p.m. Thursday in “The Big House” at Jackson for the Class 2A state championship. The Lady Lions put the Lady Tornadoes out of the tournament last season in the quarter-finals.
Rachel Jones led Byers (34-4) with 15, while Ryan hit 11 and Gormon had 10. Gorman also grabbed 14 rebounds. Kourtney Coleman added eight points and eight rebounds.
Brittany Bohannon led Kemper County (22-13) with 18, followed by Chadisty Hickman with 11.
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