State semi-finals

• Indians lose to defending champions

Sometimes when it rains, it pours, even on the basketball court.

The Byhalia Indians had their troubles out of the starting gate Monday night in the Class 4A state semi-finals at Jackson and went on to lose to Raymond 72-58. The Rangers are seeking their third straight state championship.

Byhalia dug itself a big hole, 44-19, at halftime, came out fighting in the third and lost by 14 in Mississippi Coliseum.

“It was a bad start,” coach Derwin Cooper said. “They (the Rangers) came out on fire, and we couldn’t slow them down. They got to running on us, and we couldn’t turn the water off.

“But we battled back and had a good showing. I’m proud of my guys.”

The Indians were plagued by turnovers in the early going as they fell behind 24-12 after one period.

“We had some costly mistakes in the first quarter and just couldn’t strike back,” Cooper said.

The deficit plunged to 25 at halftime as the Indians went through a three-minute scoring drought in the second quarter.

After the break, Byhalia went on an 8-2 run. Demetrius Jones cashed in a couple of back-to-back buckets.

“He gave us a lot of energy, and we fed off his energy,” Cooper said. “We made a heck of a run there.”

But the Rangers got going again late in the third and was up 55-31.

Kavontae Tunstall opened the fourth with a putback for the Indians, and they kept battling. They outscored the Rangers 27-17 in the fourth before being eliminated by the two-time defending state champions.

Top scorers for the Indians were Tunstall with 15, Jones with 13 and Raymond Tuggles with 12. Tunstall also had a team-best nine rebounds.

Byhalia had 19 turnovers in the loss.

“Raymond plays cohesive basketball – they’re a wellrounded team,” Cooper said. “They’ve built a program, and that’s what we want to have, and it’s coming.

“To make it this far is a big boost for Byhalia basketball. Overall, no one expected us to make it this far. We will build off of this for next year.”

Byhalia loses seven seniors – Jerell Brounson, Tunstall, Antwon Porter, D. Jones, Denzel Guy, Nick Jones and Arronday McGrath.

“And they will be greatly missed,” Cooper said.

“But I believe we will be tough again next year. We have some guys who can step up.”

Byhalia ended the season with a 20-10 record.

Raymond (28-5) advances to the Class 4A state title game versus Florence (25-6) on Thursday at Jackson.

Holly Springs South Reporter

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