Thursday, March 8, 2012
Quest for Gold Balls in ‘Big House’
By CLAUDE VINSON
“There are strange things done in the midnight sun; By the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales; That would make your blood run cold,” as the opening lines in “The Cremation of Sam McGee” are written by Robert W. Service.
Probably much less chilling but most exciting is the wonderful time in secondary school athletics when teams come from across Mississippi and finally bring to an end in the Big House their quests for the golden orbs.
The games, which ran this year from February 24 through March 3, attracted, as usual, fans who number in the thousands on a daily basis to witness the success, or not, of their favorites. The basketball playoffs draw the largest crowd of any of the high school championships held in the state.
Fifty teams start the hunt on opening day and 12 end up with the golden prize.
From our local area we had two who made it all the way to the end (one in “The Big House” and the other at Wood Coliseum – their stories appear elsewhere in this sports section).
For some this journey takes years and for others it seems to be endless. On the girls’ side this season, New Site finally claimed its first title in the 2A classification. The Lady Warriors (Pontotoc) ended a 36-year drought in the 4A class. The Lady Chargers of Oxford returned to the podium after some years in 5A. And in 6A, Forest Hill made it for the first time since 1956.
The boys had two firsts during this tournament – S.V. Marshall in 2A and Amanda Elzy in 4A. Kemper County returned to the top in 3A and Callaway ruled in 5A. Coldwater won state in 1A boys.
Perhaps the greatest excitement was generated in the last game of the tourney on Saturday night when Jim Hill wrested the Gold Ball from Tupelo in overtime. It took some heroics from senior Fred Thomas, who hit a three in the last 17 seconds to give Jim Hill the victory. The Tigers had never won a regular state title, although they had won a Magnolia Championship in 1963. Thomas is headed for Mississippi State post secondary and his new coach was in the audience.
This tournament had another first – three women officials calling a girls game.
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