February 25, 2014 2:32:45 PM
MACON -- Noxubee County High School senior Jasmone Brown waited patiently while her team learned how to play together this season.
Once the Lady Tigers found out that five working together is better than one, the season took flight.
The Noxubee County High girls basketball team rolled through the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A, Region 4 Tournament last week and continued that strong play with a 51-40 victory against Greenwood on Monday night in the opening round of the North State playoffs at Coleman Gymnasium.
Noxubee County will face Shannon on Thursday in the North State quarterfinals at Itawamba AHS. A game time will be finalized today. Noxubee County is two wins away from earning a spot in next week's Class 4A State tournament in Jackson and three wins away from a North State championship.
"We just had to put it all together and play together," Brown said. "Our coach stressed team work from the very first practice. Once we found out how to complement each other, we became a pretty good team."
Marvin McGee took over the boys and girls basketball teams at Noxubee County prior to the season after longtime coach T.J. Billups moved to Texas. McGee's boys also are in the playoffs and will face Greenwood tonight. As far as the girls are concerned, McGee felt it was a matter of time.
"Playing together as a team was something new for this team," McGee said. "We really had to stress the value of teamwork. That was a new concept. I thought we had some pretty good players. I thought the best way to get the good play each player was capable of was by stressing teamwork, bonding, and chemistry. Once they figured out how good they be playing together as a team, we took off and went to another level."
Brown and junior Idralian Williams led the Lady Tigers with 13 points. Balance could be felt throughout the lineup. On five of the first six possessions, all five of Noxubee County's starters scored.
"It is all about playing hard," Williams said. "From the first practice, we had the mind-set of working hard and trying to outwork the other opponent. When we hustle and make plays, we feel like we can compete with most teams. When everybody is involved in the offense, we are a pretty good team."
Noxubee County quickly proved its superiority against Greenwood, which missed 14 layups.
Greenwood ended the game on a 13-3 run to make the score close. The Lady Bulldogs had 12 field goals. Jasmine Davis (game-high 23 points) was the only player who had more than one field goal.
"Our defense in the halfcourt was very good," McGee said. "We got some steals and got the transition game going. I thought we did a great job of attacking the basket and getting some good shots from within 10 feet."
With Brown scoring from the outside and Williams pounding the glass and scoring inside, Noxubee County built on a 16-15 lead. Eldahsa Robertson helped Williams with the work inside and Shuntania Culpper added seven points from the outside.
"The biggest thing is we have some confidence," Brown said. "All it takes is three or four stops on the defensive end. Then when someone makes a big basket on offense, the team is excited. That is what happened last week (in the region tournament). We had a spark early and never let up that intensity. Now we are trying to do the same in this tournament."
For McGee, his team's ability to play its best basketball has come at the perfect time.
"One day at a time, one practice at a time," McGee said. "That is all we have preached from the beginning of the season. I knew we could be in this position if we kept getting better. That is what we have done."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter