Thursday, March 18, 2010
Grand Slam concludes season
By CLAUDE VINSON
The high school basketball season came to an end Saturday in the Big House.
The door on the season was slammed shut with the culmination of the Grand Slam or more appropriately, the tournament of champions. This “third season” in Mississippi hoops was first initiated back in 1951 and had a 31-year run before it went dormant. It was revived in 2007 with the first two installments held at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo. In 2009 it was moved to the Big House (coliseum) in Jackson.
The tournament invites the champions of all the classes across the state for one final showdown, winner takes all format. The progress is by class steps, for example Class 1A vs 2A and so on until the best team remains at the end of the third day. Since the re-instatement of the tournament, it seems the upper tier classes were destined to excel. The 4A and 5A classes won out. This season there was a sixth class added.
Since 2007, the boys tournament had been won by a pair of 4A schools (Lanier and Callaway) and one 5A (Provine). For the girls it was 4A Gentry going back to back in ’07 and ’08 and 5A Murrah in ’09.
The outlook in the 2010 Grand Slam appeared to have a little different slant – there appeared to be some “Davids” among the “Goliaths.” The “David” with the strongest sling and the most rocks was thought to be the Lady Bulldogs of 1A McAdams. They had upset the 2A Lady Tigers of Newton on opening day 83-72, barely raising a sweat. They looked to be more than ready to face the 6A Horn Lake Lady Eagles in the semis. The secret of the Lady Bulldogs’ success is clearly the diminutive dynamos known as the Gilmore girls. Twins Kierra and Dierra Gilmore have been wreaking havoc all season. It is as rare for one of the duo to miss a free throw as it is for one to be behind on a fast break.
There were many who picked the repeating 1A champs to win it all. So one can imagine the disappointment and dismay when the Lady Bulldogs committed nine consecutive turnovers to blow a 10-point lead in the last 1:54 seconds of regulation against 6A Horn Lake. The Lady Eagles forced the OT and won 61-59. The Lady Eagles were defeated by 4A Raymond in the finals.
The boys final was a real grand finale between 4A Callaway and 6A Starkville. The Yellowjackets, playing under the new banner, won it all over the Chargers by a convincing score of 61-45.
As entertaining as these games are, the attendance was meager and disappointing. It would be a shame to see this tournament put in mothballs again. It means too much to these young athletes who work so hard to see who is going to be the best.
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