March 6, 2014
teams going to state
The H.W. Byers bus might not even need a driver. It knows the way to “The Big House.”
For a record eighth straight year, the Lady Lions are packing their bags for the state tournament in Jackson.
They qualified by finishing second in North 2A.
“You always envision that goal and dream,” said Jason Thompson, “and once you’ve been there and tasted it, you continue to want that fulfillment.”
The Byers girls have won three straight state championships, those coming in 1A. They’ve won five the last six years, the previous two coming in 2A.
He said the road to the title this year is the toughest, no doubt. He lost six seniors from last year’s squad, including four starters who are all playing college basketball.
“For us to come back and make a run is a true testament to these kids and their hard work,” Thompson said. “It hasn’t been an easy road; it was a bumpy road.
“But like I told them – now that we’ve made it, let’s go try to win it.”
In the north half title tilt, the Lady Lions fell to District 2-2A foe Coahoma County for the third time this season. The final, on the Lady Panthers’ home court, was 48-43.
Like in the previous meetings, Coach Thompson said Coahoma County got the ball in the paint and took advantage of its size.
“They’re methodical,” he said. “They like to pound it. It’s a tremendous advantage for them.”
He said his Lady Lions suffered some foul trouble and couldn’t apply as much full-court pressure as normal.
“It turned into more of a half-court game,” he said.
“We scrapped and clawed but we could never get over the hump because of some small stuff – missed lay-ups and missed free throws.”
Byers surged ahead 7-0 at the start of the game but then missed six straight free throws in the first quarter.
“They hit a three and then another three and got some momentum,” Thompson said. “We went from being up, and having a chance, to being stuck in the mud.”
The game stayed tight throughout.
The Lady Lions trailed 14-9 after one quarter, 23-20 at the half and 34-31 following three periods.
Abria Gulledge led Byers with 20 points. Richenda Crutcher had 11.
The Lady Lions punched their return ticket to Mississippi Coliseum by knocking off Marshall County rival Potts Camp 55-40 in the North final four Friday night.
Byers, using its patented press to force Lady Cardinal turnovers and turn those into points, stormed ahead 32-13 at halftime.
Leading the way in the point production were Gulledge with 15 and Laniqua Collins and Crutcher with 10 each.
It was Byers’ fourth win over Potts Camp this season.
The Byers girls lived up to a tall task in the quarter-finals Thursday. They dominated a Calhoun City team that entered with just two losses. The final was 76-56.
Gulledge drilled back-to-back, three-point bombs just before the first quarter ended and the Lady Lions went up 27-10.
They were on cruise control until halftime, leading 42-26 at the break. Byers hit six threes in the first half.
The Lady Wildcats didn’t quit. They trimmed the deficit to start the second half.
But Byers was back in control at the end of the third quarter, 60-42, and they went on to win by 20.
Gulledge finished with 20 points. Getting 13 each were Keoasha Moore and Collins. Miracle Duncan scored nine, while Jequira Thompson and Crutcher had eight each.
The Lady Lions will carry a 23-8 record to Jackson where they will face South State champion Newton (27-6) in the semi-finals this Friday at 9 a.m.
The winner will face the Coahoma County-Scott Central winner for the state crown on Thursday, March 13, at 1 p.m.
“We’re very fortunate and blessed to be in this position,” Thompson said. “This group of girls has worked extremely hard to get to this point. I’m extremely proud of them.”
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