Thursday, July 16, 2009
North stars win sixth straight
By BARRY BURLESON
The South all-star team supposedly had all the top guns and was tabbed the favorite.
But the North had plenty of ammunition, too, including Antonekia Williams of Clinton.
She hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds left, and the South’s three try by Janairrika Bland of Raymond barely missed the mark at the buzzer.
The North won its sixth straight Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Game 67-65. The contest, for rising high school seniors, was played Saturday at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College in Clinton.
H.W. Byers’ Jason Thompson, head coach of the North, worked about as hard as his players and celebrated with them.
“As wet as my shirt is, I feel like I gave myself a Gatorade bath,” Thompson said from courtside after the exciting victory. “On paper they (the South) were supposed to be better, but they couldn’t measure our heart. We wanted to keep the winning streak going.”
He had two fellow Marshall Countians on the squad – Kenyotta Jenkins of Potts Camp and Brionne Gulledge of Byers.
Jenkins controlled the opening tip and scored the game’s first basket. Both contributed tremendously on the defensive end, Thompson said.
“Kenyotta played great defense on their big girls and did an excellent job on the boards,” he said. “She showed she can compete on this level.
“Brionne was a catalyst in getting things started on the defensive end. She showed the rest of the team her dedication to defense.
“They both represented Marshall County well.”
The North fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half but managed to stay close, thanks in large part to the shooting of Greenville’s Breanna Lewis. She finished with 18 points and won the game’s Best Offensive Player.
The North trailed 36-29 at the half.
Thompson’s team got its first lead since 2-0 with 17:50 left in the game. Williams’ layup made it 37-36. It was back and forth the rest of the way.
“I was impressed with how the kids did not give up,” Thompson said. “It’s great to see kids give all they have for you.
“They controlled the momentum in the first half. It the second half, we were trying to get it, and we did.”
Horn Lake’s Jasbriell Swain nailed a couple of threes down the stretch. She finished with 12 points.
The South had possession late, up 65-64 and running clock, but shot too early and missed.
That’s win Ericka Robinson of Clinton found teammate Williams open in the corner and she drained the game-winning shot.
“I’d just put her in the game for defense, but I knew she could score,” Thompson said. “It worked out. There was no hesitation on her part. She knocked it down.”
The South had a throw-in from the side with five seconds left. Bland’s long-range shot rimmed out.
“When she got the ball that wide open I almost fainted,” Thompson said. “It was the longest four seconds in the history of the game.
“We were happy. It was everything you would want an all-star game to be.”
It also made Thompson 7-0 as as a coach in various all-star contests.
“That was not a big deal, but it was something to help motivate the kids,” he said. “They told me, ‘We’ve got you coach.’ They went out and played hard.
“It was a great experience for me. When you see the list of legendary coaches (in the program) who have coached in this game, it’s special. It’s almost too great of a gift.”
Thompson, who has led Byers to back-to-back state championships, preaches defense, and the all-star game was no differend.
“We told our players if they would play ‘lights out’ defense for the whole game, we’d have a chance,” he said. “Our kids were committed to defense.”
Swain was named the Defensive Player of the Game.
In the boys all-star game, the South won 107-104.
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