Thursday, March 12, 2009
State champions again
By BARRY BURLESON
The H.W. Byers seniors have kept their promise and more.
As sixth graders, they saw the boys team making a regular run to the state tournament.
“They were like - ‘Coach, we want to do that,’” said Jason Thompson, head coach of the Lady Lions. “Stay with us and we promise we will take you to Jackson.”
Friday afternoon at Mississippi Coliseum, better known as “The Big House,” the Byers girls claimed their second consecutive Class 2A state crown.
“That’s a testament to their desire,” Thompson said.
The five seniors on the squad are Rachel Jones, Amanda Jones, Ciara Seldon, Symone Gorman and Kenyata Gulledge.
“This is a great class,” Thompson said. “I started with them in the sixth grade and I’ve worked with them six years – junior high and high school. Throughout the process, they’ve worked hard and they exemplify great togetherness. They’ve always set their goals high ad strived to achieve excellence.”
In the past three seasons, the Lady Lions have won 95 games. They went as far as the state semi-finals in 2007, their first-ever trip to “The Big House,” before taking the gold ball the past two seasons.
“This is blessing and a great honor,” Thompson said about the back-to-back state championships. “We’re wearing smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.
“It’s hard to win one, but to do it back to back is an outstanding feat at anytime at any level (of sports).”
He said his Lady Lions saw the Holly Springs boys do it back in 2004 and 2005, and “They paved the way for us.”
And the season isn’t over just yet. The Byers girls (34-4) will play in the Mississippi High School Activities Association/EnviroTurf Grand Slam Basketball Championship this week, back at “The Big House.” They open Thursday at 6 p.m. versus McAdams, the Class A champ. Last season the Lady Lions lost in their opener at the overall tournament.
“We left a lot on the table last year,” Thompson said. “We wanted to win but the desire was not there. We seemed complacent with the state championship. This year we want to make a better showing – especially with this senior class.
“We want to make a run at it, and we like our chances.”
The game Thursday will take an interesting twist as Thompson coaches against Kenyon Ross, a former college roommate at Mississippi Valley.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Thompson said, “and it’s the first time we’ve ever coached against one another.”
He called this group of Lady Lions “probably the best team I’ve ever coached” and added, “They’re not ready to end the season yet.”
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