Sammy Smith looks back and smiles when he thinks of where Michael Hall, Akeem Toppin and Bobby Wrench were as freshmen. The ninth-graders didn't have a lot of success on the basketball court, but Smith saw the potential in each young man. "They grew, they grew, the grew and they made steps," Smith said. "The group before them, Philip (Morris) and Josh (Carothers, East Central Community College), made a difference in their lives and made them push a little harder. That made myself and the staff feel real good. I think the community will be pleased with how we have the boys going on (to college) and, hopefully, they will be successful in life and with what they're going to do." All three players recently realized opportunities to have basketball be a part of the next steps in their lives. Hall will continue his athletic career at Southwest Mississippi C.C., while Toppin and Wrench will be teammates at Copiah-Lincoln C.C.
The South Lamar High School softball team will get another chance to win a state championship after finishing runner-up last season. South Lamar has earned a berth in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A State Tournament for the second year in a row after losing to Speake in last year's championship game. The Lady Stallions (34-11) earned a berth in the state tournament by finishing runner-up to Ragland in the North Central Regional Tournament at Vestavia Hills, Ala., this past Saturday. South Lamar's opening game is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday against Pleasant Home at Lagoon Park in Montgomery, Ala.
With each meet this track season, Mississippi State's men's relay teams have built notoriety and put its stamp on the nation's high-profile events.
Four local high school baseball players were recently recognized for their accomplishments and earned spots on their state's All-State teams.
The best is yet to come for Kelli Petty. The New Hope High School track and field standout took the next to last step in her prep career in style Saturday, winning three individual events at the Class 5A North Half State meet.
The latest group of Mississippi State women's basketball players to reach the WNBA is down to one. The San Antonio Silver Stars released former MSU standout Alexis Rack and forward Krystal Vaughn on Monday.
STARKVILLE -- LaQuinta Aaron smiles when asked if Mississippi State's men's track team success has overshadowed the progress made by MSU's women. The All-Southeastern Conference hurdler and heptathlete enters this week's SEC Championships hoping to achieve the same kind of notoriety.
VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. -- The South Lamar High School fast-pitch softball team won four games to make it to the championship game and finished as the runner-up in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A North Central Regional Tournament.
Two weeks ago, Chris Chism told his players his fourth season would be his last as the coach of the Hernando High School baseball team. The Tigers are doing everything they can to make Chism's final run a memorable one. Cody Camp and David Hinkle had RBI singles in the top of the seventh inning to help Hernando beat New Hope 5-3 in Game 2 and sweep its best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A playoff series.
ACKERMAN -- The Hamilton Lions survived a late scare from Ackerman to post a 9-8 win Saturday and advance in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A playoffs. Hamilton (20-3) dethroned the defending state champions by building a 7-2 lead in the fourth inning and holding on through a furious rally that saw the desperate Indians plate four runs in the sixth inning. Relief pitcher Chase Reeves rebounded from the shaky sixth by striking out three batters in the final inning.
Five innings wasn't enough for Olivia Ladner. While some pitchers would have taken the opportunity to rest after a six-run inning created an eight-run deficit for her team, Ladner preferred to finish what she started. That final deficit in Game 2 changed only slightly, which allowed the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team to force a third game 20 minutes later. The break apparently worked wonders for Ladner.
HAMILTON -- The Hamilton High School fast pitch softball team learned a valuable lesson here Saturday afternoon -- when you live by the sword, sometimes you also die by the sword. Last week, the Lady Lions switched to a "small ball" strategy en route to a 7-3 win against East Union in the second and deciding game of their best-of-three series with the Lady Urchins in the opening round of the MHSAA Class 2A playoffs.
Junior Noel was stunned. For the past two seasons, Noel worked to make the East Mississippi Community College men's and women's soccer programs respectable. The results weren't eye-popping, but Noel and those in the area who follow soccer believe EMCC was improving. That progress was put on hold earlier this week when the EMCC Board of Trustees voted to suspend the men's and women's soccer programs for one season.
STARKVILLE -- Scott Stricklin's introduction as Mississippi State's 16th athletics director had the feeling of a family reunion or and Easter Sunday gathering. With Stricklin's family and friends gathered together Friday, the Mississippi State alum and employee spoke for the first time in a position he called "his dream job."
If Junior Noel was stunned to learn the East Mississippi Community College soccer programs he coached were going to be suspended, imagine the surprise of the freshmen on the teams when they heard the news. Former Starkville High School forward Eduardo Fumo, who was a freshman on the EMCC men's soccer team in the fall, said he first learned of the school's decision to suspend the men's and women's soccer programs in a phone call from Brian Bennett, his former coach at Starkville High.
The East Mississippi Community College Board of Trustees' decision Monday to suspend the school's men's and women's soccer programs has surprised and confused many coaches and followers of the teams. The surprise is understandable given that EMCC coach Junior Noel, who coached the men's team for the past three years and the women's team the past two years, had no idea a move like that was going to be made until Tuesday morning, when he also was informed his contract would not be renewed.
Scott Stricklin's introduction as Mississippi State University's 16th athletics director had the feeling of a family reunion or an Easter Sunday gathering.
It's not a good time to be a rookie trying to earn a roster spot in the WNBA.
Former Mississippi State women's basketball standout Armelie Lumanu has learned that fact, and former teammates Chanel Mokango and Alexis Rack hope they don't suffer the same fate.
But Boris Lelchitski, the agent for all three players, said Mokango (with the Atlanta Dream) and Rack (with the San Antonio Silver Stars) are doing well and remain in competition for roster spots.
HAMILTON -- Support comes in all varieties.
In baseball, teammates can back their pitchers with solid defense, timely hitting, and a selfless approach.
The Hamilton High School baseball team is fortunate because it has five seniors who provide that support in every facet of the game.
Left-handed pitcher Dylan Earnest and outfielder Kevin McCartney probably are the two of Hamilton's most recognized players, but designated hitter Devin Hopper, shortstop Nathan Cockerham, and outfielder Cole Johnson have played integral roles in the Lions' success this season.
Survive and advance.
It sounds simple, but nothing is easy in high school athletics.
Even the most "outmanned" teams can give an opponent a test to remember.
Neshoba Central reminded the New Hope High School baseball team of that fact in the first round. The Rockets used stingy pitching and stout defense to stretch the Division 2, District 1 champions to three games before Blake Roberts' complete-game effort pushed the Trojans to the second round.
1. History on MSU's side with Liberty Bowl COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Columbus' Cockrell confirms commitment to Nebraska COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Adkins has career day in Lions' title clincher COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Thomas helps EMCC cap undefeated season with championship COLLEGE SPORTS