Thursday, February 26, 2009
Byers going back to ‘The Big House’
By BARRY BURLESON
The H.W. Byers Lady Lions will ride a familiar road this week.
Coach Jason Thompson’s team beat West Tallahatchie Friday in the North State “Final Four” and earned a third straight trip to the Class 2A State Tournament.
“It was a great win,” he said. “We’re going back to ‘The Big House’ and that’s always an awesome feeling,” he said. “This win tonight automatically qualifies us to be in the mix.”
The Byers girls, in their first-ever trip south on I-55 to Jackson, lost in the state semi-finals in 2007. Last year they won the coveted championship.
The Lady Lions go to state this year as the North’s number two seed after a loss to New Site Saturday (see other story). They opened against Bay Springs, the South’s number three team, Tuesday of this week at 9 a.m.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Thompson said about defending the state crown.
West Tallahatchie was a brief challenge for Byers Friday night in the North State Tournament at New Site. But the Lady Lions outscored the opposition 27-11 in the third quarter and cruised to the 80-49 win.
“A game is 32 minutes, and the team that plays the hardest is going to win the ball game,” Thompson said. “We didn’t play that way at the start. We went into a tailspin, and they got the momentum.”
He saw his team go up 16-3 on Brionne Gulledge’s three at the 3:10 mark of the first quarter. But then West Tallahatchie sank three wide-open threes and quickly sliced the deficit to 20-14.
The lead was 36-22 at the half.
Midway through the third period, the rout was on as Byers picked up the defensive intensity and cashed in their opportunities on the other end. Kourtney Coleman’s putback upped the margin to 43-24 near the five-minute mark.
“Defensive is where we get things started,” Thompson said. “We have to force turnovers from good pressure defense, and that puts in position to win. It’s no secret, you have to see if you can hang with our tempo.”
Coleman poured in 27 points. Alexis Hardaway contributed 18 and Rachel Jones 16.
Byers improved to 31-3. West Tallahatchie moved into an elimination game Saturday night with a record of 22-9.
The Byers Lady Lions had opened the North State “Final Eight” at New Site on Thursday afternoon with an easy 80-52 win over Bruce.
The Lady Trojans hung close for a quarter, trailing 14-12, but it was pretty much all Lady Lions after that. Byers surged in front 42-25 at the half and led 65-43 after three quarters.
Four Lady Lions scored in double figures – Amanda Jones with 20, Coleman with 16, Rachel Jones with 14 and Gulledge with 13.
Bruce ended its season with an 18-8 record.
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