Thursday, February 25, 2010
Back to the Big House
By BARRY BURLESON
The Byers Lady Lions will make their fourth consecutive trip south on I-55 for the State Basketball Tournament.
Coach Jason Thompson’s team qualified for the Class A “Final Four” with a 61-48 win over Shaw Saturday night in the semis of North Half play at Wheeler.
“It’s a fabulous feeling,” said Thompson, who lost five seniors from last year’s Class 2A state championship squad. “This group had something to prove. They had a chip on their shoulders. No one gave us much of a chance but I knew if we played like we’re capable, we would get back to Jackson.”
The Byers girls made their first-ever trip to Mississippi Coliseum in 2007, losing in the semi-finals, and then claimed back-to-back Class 2A state titles in 2008 and 2009. This year they moved down to Class 1A.
Thompson said the hard-fought win over Shaw exemplified the grit and determination of his team.
The game was tied at 9 after one quarter. The Lady Lions led 22-19 at the half and 40-38 after three periods. Then they outscored the opposition 21-10 in the final fourth.
“That’s one of the trademarks of this team, and one of the reasons why we’re making a fourth straight trip to state,” Thompson said about the sudden surge.
The ingredients, he said, included “smothering defense, good ball-handling and clutch free-throw shooting.”
Balanced scoring also helped the cause. Kourtney Coleman led the way with 21 points, followed by Alexis Hardaway with 17 and Kyra Gulledge and Brionne Gulledge with 10 each.
The Lady Lions improved to 27-6 on the season. They’re 15-1 in their last 16 games, since early January.
“We’ve been able to put things together at the right time and get hot,” Coach Thompson said.
Byers reached the North Half semi-finals with a 66-43 rout of the host school, Wheeler, on Friday night.
The Lady Lions soared ahead 14-7 after one quarter and 35-19 at the half. They upped the margin to 50-29 after three periods.
Coleman scored 25 and Hardaway 23 in the 23-point win. K. Gulledge added nine.
Byers played fellow Region 2-1A foe Myrtle Monday night at Wheeler for the North State crown. The Lady Lions entered 3-0 against the Lady Hawks this season.
“It’s hard to consistently beat a good team like Myrtle,” Thompson said. “It will be a tough game.”
The winner (North champion) plays Friday at 9 a.m. in Jackson. The North runner-up plays Friday at 1 p.m.
West Lincoln and McAdams, the defending Class 1A state champs, played Monday night for the number one and two positions from the South Half.
Editor’s Note - The Byers-Myrtle game was played after the deadline for The South Reporter’s sports section. Look for that game story in the first section of this week’s newspaper.
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