March 14, 2013
The Lady Lions of H.W. Byers had set their sights high at the beginning of the season – bring another gold ball to rest in the trophy case at the school on Highway 72.
Head coach Jason Thompson had put his charges through some rigorous contests with bigger and tougher teams, some of which either won or were competing for championships in their own classes.
The 1A Lady Lions, who dominated the bulk of their foes in the regular season and the playoffs, entered the state championship game at the Big House in Jackson with a record of 27-5.
The Lady Bulldogs of Hinds AHS put up the first two and while the shots of Byers were not immediately finding the bottom of the nylon, the defense was effectively shutting down the Lady Bulldogs’ offense. Coach Thompson was subbing often. Madison McCreless entered the game, gingerly testing an injured ankle which had kept her sidelined for most of the playoffs. The Lady Lions took the first frame 18-4.
The Lady Bulldogs tried to bounce back from a 14-point deficit in the second quarter and they made it down to eight at one time. Hinds was making good on its opportunities under the basket. The Lady Lions were blowing some of their close-ins but still managed to stay ahead 31-22 at halftime.
The Lady Bulldogs, being led by Octavia Barnes, Erica Harris and Adrienne Burks, climbed to within seven points in the third period, their closest advance since the first. The Lady Lions were still hustling but allowing the Lady Bulldogs to keep pace in scoring. It was below double digits at the end of the third, 40-31.
The Lady Lions’ free-throw shooting was suspect at times but it didn’t faze them and they seemed to hit them when needed. Shortly into the final quarter, Byers began playing typical Lady Lions’ basketball. They got contributions from all team members who hit the floor and piled up the points to solidify a three-peat performance at 63-41.
This title put them in elite company with just two other teams which had won three in a row at Mississippi Coliseum. Pontotoc and Bogue Chitto also have such marks.
Prior to the start of the game, McCreless was recognized with the Scholar Athlete Award and Justice Martin was tapped after the title contest with the Player of the Game Award.
Martin led the Lady Lions (28-5) with 15, followed by Richenda Crutcher with 12 and Abria Gulledge with 10.
Precious Rogers grabbed eight rebounds and Martin seven.
High scorers for Hinds were Harris with 12, Burks with 11 and Barnes with 10.
“This team was on a mission,” Thompson said about his Byers Lady Lions. “I’m so proud of this group of girls.”
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