Thursday, February 23, 2012
• Byers looks to repeat as Class 1A state champs
By CLAUDE VINSON
The H.W. Byers Lady Lions will be traveling down the big road to “The Big House” for the sixth straight year.
They won their second straight Class 1A North State crown last week and next go to Jackson to defend their state championship. Their record is 27-4.
Byers beats Shaw
The North Half playoffs moved to Myrtle High School Thursday and the Lady Lions were paired with the Lady Hawks of Shaw.
The Lady Lions were poised and ready coming off their fifth consecutive district championship, this one on their home court.
The tip went to Byers and it was good for an opening deuce from Kyra Gulledge. She added a pair from the line after being fouled in the paint. This seemed to have set the tone. Byers was running out to a hefty lead but they were making some uncharacteristic turnovers. They were ahead by 13 points (24-11) at the horn.
Coach Jason Thompson was subbing regularly but the players entering the game had no trouble in keeping the scoring rhythm going. It slowed down a little but a few timely treys from Abria Gulledge gave them a 22-point cushion at intermission.
The Lady Hawks were committing fouls which sent the Lady Lions to the line multiple times, however, their performance at the charity stripe was less than stellar. They didn’t really need the freebies (they were connecting on about 55 percent), being up 71-37 at the end of the third period.
The Lady Lions moved on to the semis with an 81-41 victory.
A. Gulledge, who had a trio of long-range bombs, finished with 26. Next was Justice Martin with 18. K. Gulledge had 13, Madison McCreless nine and Richenda Crutcher seven.
Krystal Nailer hit 31 for Shaw.
Lady Lions down Myrtle
On Thursday night, the Lady Lions faced an all too familiar foe in district competitor Myrtle. Thrice they had met the Lady Hawks this season and had come away winners each time. One can bet that this is always going to be a tough contest.
From the beginning, both squads appeared to be a bit edgy. This was a very important game for both teams, both ranked in the state’s top five. The Lady Lions seemed to be out of sync. They took the early lead but there was no solid continuity. It was 15-8 at the end.
The Lady Lions still were not meshing as a productive unit and they were missing easy lay-ups and stick-backs. They achieved a 10-point lead at one point but it didn’t last long. Myrtle was capitalizing on the trips to the charity stripe and soon reduced the difference to three. It was cut to a deuce by intermission (25-23).
The Lady Hawks slowed the tempo in the third, keeping the ball outside and making the Lady Lions chase. Byers was making too many errors which resulted in turnovers. The teams were separated by a single point (39-38), at the end of the third frame.
Byers began to take control of the game in the fourth, first building a three-point lead, using the clock and expanding the margin to eleven. The Lady Lions contained a tough Myrtle offense, led by Aspriona Gilbert, and went on to win 50-43.
Crutcher was high for Byers with 10. Martin and Abria Gulledge posted nine apiece with Alexis Hardaway striking for eight.
Gilbert paced Myrtle with 17.
Byers bests Coldwater
As the classical saying goes, it was déjà vu all over again. Just as in the district playoffs, this was the classical match-up between the state’s top two squads – this time battling for the north’s number one seed at state. The Lady Cougars of Coldwater faced the Lady Lions of H.W. Byers, and it was destined to be a cat fight all the way.
Jerontay Clemons started early and was hitting from inside and outside. Clemons had scored 54 points in the district playoffs at Byers and 40 the night before against the Lady Blue Devils of Ashland.
The Lady Lions were only one point behind at quarter’s end (19-18).
The Lady Lions put the brakes on Clemons slightly in the second frame and stopped her scoring stride. They were defending her better. The Lady Lions also maintained a two- to four-point lead until Clemons tied it at 35 just seconds before intermission.
The Lady Lions went methodical in the top of the third. Kyra Gulledge posted and made good on a pair of quick feeds. After that all the Lady Lions became more aggressive – and effective. They ran up an 11-point lead. However, after some substitutions, the offense began misfiring. Coldwater caught up and tied it at 57 as the quarter ended.
The fourth began and the Lady Lions were a picture of composure. They quickly established control of the game and its tempo. They completely settled down and went to work at dismantling the Coldwater offense. They took a six-point lead with two minutes left and they kept that margin at the end (73-67).
Kyra Gulledge was high with 22. She also grabbed 20 rebounds. Abria Gulledge collected a trio of treys again on the way to her 17 points. Hardaway contributed 13 and Crutcher 11.
Clemons hit 46 points in Coldwater’s loss.
Byers’ Precious Rogers did not dress out for the championship game. She was injured in the final quarter against Myrtle. The Lady Lions let her receive the championship trophy.
While the team was celebrating its latest trophy acquisition at mid-court, Coach Thompson sat quietly on the team bench alone. He was perhaps contemplating his sixth consecutive trip to Mississippi Coliseum – more déjà vu.
The Lady Lions will be seeking their fourth state title in six years – having won two in Class 2A and one in 1A. They will face the same foe as last year on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 1 p.m., the Bogue Chitto Lady Bobcats. They defeated the Lady Bobcats 49-37 and then moved on to defeat Coldwater 48-43 for the championship.
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