March 3, 2011
Class A State Tournament
Big wins in big games generally lead to bigger games down big roads to the Big House.
This was the much anticipated plight of the H.W. Byers Lady Lions. And it ultimately ended in an enjoyable plight.
The Lady Lions had won back-to-back championships in ’08 and ’09 and were eliminated by eventual state champion McAdams last year.
This time Byers faced another team with a fine resume, the Lady Bobcats of Bogue Chitto, with a 30-2 record.
The Lady Lions started with too many missed shots. On the plus side, they were taking care of the ball and out-rebounding the Lady Bobcats about five to one. And the Lady Lions were canning their freebies. They missed only two in the first half. They led 15-6 at the end of the first frame.
The Lady Lions achieved their largest lead of 11 points early in the second quarter. But Byers had to give three of those back on a “tech.”
Byers then went to a smaller lineup after building the lead back to double digits. During this period there were a few questionable calls by the floor officials which favored the Lady Bobcats, but Byers still controlled its own destiny and continued to miss some easy shots. However, the Lady Lions were still sinking them at the charity stripe. Byers hung on to an eight-point difference at the intermission, 26-18.
The Lady Lions slumped a little in the third period, allowing the Lady Bobcats to reduce the deficit to seven (39-32). It was apparent in this quarter that two of the Byers stars, Kyra Gulledge and Kourtney Coleman, struggled a bit against the Bogue Chitto defense. Fortunately, the Lady Lions’ roster is studded with players who can make the difference. This is not to say that Coleman and Gulledge didn’t contribute a great deal in the victory. Verily, Gulledge led with a dozen rebounds and made a half dozen blocks. Most of Coleman’s points were hit in the first half, plus she had eight rebounds.
In the fourth period, Byers was understandably trying to burn the clock and preserve the lead, but they were exhibiting an unsteadiness which is entirely uncharacteristic of this team. The Lady Bobcats had to go the fouling route to try and get control of the ball. Time was slipping away with the Lady Lions whipping the ball around the court. They staved off a late surge try by Bogue Chitto and went on to win 49-37.
Alexis Hardaway led the floor and Byers with 17 points and plenty of hustle. Coleman pitched in 10 and Richenda Crutcher and Precious Rogers had eight and five, respectively. K. Gulledge hit for four, Abria Gulledge three and Madison McCreless two.
Bogue Chitto’s Aneshia Dillon led the Lady Bobcats with 11 and Tesheon Rogers pitched in with eight.
“We did not play good – very sub-par all night,” said Byers coach Jason Thompson, who has his Lady Lions in Jackson for the fifth straight season.
“But we got over the hump. It is always better to play bad and win than to play bad and lose. We were very fortunate to muster up enough effort to get a win.”
The Lady Lions (28-8) will face an old north foe, the Coldwater Lady Cougars, on Thursday, March 3, in the Big House at 7 p.m. That one will be for all the marbles. Byers beat Coldwater for the north state championship.
“We must put a great game together Thursday,” Thompson said. “Coldwater is not going to come in and lay down. Their program has had as much success, if not more, than our’s.
“We beat them a couple of weeks ago and that was a great win but this is the one that really counts. It will be two good games playing for the state championship. I hope the best one wins and hopefully that’s us.”
Coach Thompson thanked the Byers fans for their great support.
“We appreciate all of you, and we hope to see you cheering for us at the Big House one more time, and hopefully we can get it (the state championship),” he said.
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