Thursday, March 1, 2012
Clash with rival Coldwater awaits
By BARRY BURLESON
The H.W. Byers Lady Lions, like their head coach, love a challenge.
The task ahead Friday at 1 p.m. in the Class 1A state championship game at “The Big House” is to beat rival Coldwater a fourth time this season.
In the press room following the Lady Lions’ rout of Bogue Chitto in the semi-finals Saturday, coach Jason Thompson did not yet know who his title contest opponent would be. Coldwater had yet to meet Hinds Agricultural High School in the other semi-final clash.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “If my team shows up to play, we will be fine. It’s all a matter of which one wants it the most. We will be prepared to play that game.”
As it turned out, the Lady Cougars crushed the Lady Bulldogs to set up the anticipated championship showdown.
Byers (28-4) and Coldwater have been ranked one and two all season in 1A.
“It will be interesting,” Thompson said about meeting Coldwater again.
The Lady Cougars are led by Jerontay Clemons, a Southern Miss signee. She scored 46 in the North State title game and 52 in the District 2-1A championship matchup. Byers won both, plus a regular season matchup in Coldwater.
“As far as individual players, she’s the best in the state,” Thompson said, “but I think we’re the best team, and five should beat one every time.”
Thompson has a couple of Division I signees himself – Alexis Hardaway (Austin Peay) and Kyra Gulledge (Furman).
The Lady Lions will be going for back-to-back state crowns and their fourth in five seasons. They’ve been to Mississippi Coliseum for the state tournament six straight years.
The coach, who has built a dynasty on Highway 72 in Marshall County, said this may well be his most talented team yet.
“With this team, I can go 10 deep, and most of the season we have utilized that,” Thompson said. “Overall position by position, this is arguably one of the best teams I’ve coached. I guess the game Friday will determine that.”
Seniors Kyra Gulledge, Alexis Hardaway and Dominique Rubin were all members of the three previous state title teams.
“Winning a fourth would be perfect,” Hardaway said. “I want to go out with a bang.”
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