STARKVILLE — Now is the time for separation. Eleven years ago, the Mississippi State women’s basketball was 4-5 and right in the middle of the Southeastern Conference pack with five league games remaining.
Two girls basketball programs rich in tradition will meet at 7 tonight when the Sulligent Lady Blue Devils play host to Red Bay in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A Northwest Sub-Regional Tournament.
Russ Wallace respects any team that beats R.C. Hatch. R.C. Hatch has won 10 state championships, including consecutive championships from 2006-08.
A season ago, the Southeastern Conference had three teams make the men’s NCAA tournament. A stacked SEC East may change that this season. With Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt all ranked in the top 25 of the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press polls, the East is in decent shape to send three, maybe more, to the tournament. The disparity between the East and West this season is glaring, as the East holds a 17-4 edge against West opponents this season. Plus, all of the SEC’s ranked teams are in the East.
STARKVILLE — Tysheka Grimes nearly returned to the lineup in style Sunday afternoon. After missing the past 10 games with a plantar fasciitis tear in her right foot, the senior guard/forward drained a 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining in the first overtime against the University of Florida. The trey gave the Lady Bulldogs a 69-68 lead, only to see Florida’s Lonnika Thompson answer with a 3-pointer of her own. MSU’s Alexis Rack made two free throws with seven seconds left to play to help send the game to a second overtime, where Florida eventually outlasted the Lady Bulldogs 82-80.
For much of the season, April Sykes’ shooting has been as cold as the frigid and snowy weather in Piscataway, N.J. The 6-foot sophomore guard/forward on the Rutgers University women’s basketball team is shooting just 29 percent entering a home game tonight against Seton Hall. Sykes, a 2008 graduate of East Oktibbeha High School in Crawford, has struggled of late, making 1 of 5 shots against South Florida on Saturday and missing all 10 of her attempts the previous game against Notre Dame.
CALEDONIA — Turn it up. Faced with elimination and the end of their seasons Tuesday night, the Noxubee County High School basketball teams answered the call. The challenge Thursday will be to ratchet up their pressure defense and their execution another notch to prolong their seasons. Daquarius Mallard had a game-high 25 points to lead third-seeded Noxubee County to an 86-58 victory against sixth-seeded Caledonia in the MHSAA Class 4, Region 4, District 4 Tournament at Caledonia High School.
STARKVILLE — There isn’t much left for Starkville Academy’s soccer team to do this season besides hoisting the state championship trophy. At 10-0 and with a plus-47 goal differential this season, the Volunteers enter today’s Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA playoff tie against Jackson Prep (11-7) as favorites. The No. 1-seeded Vols have mowed through opponents and closed tight games this season, putting down more expectations to bring the program its first piece of hardware since the 2005 squad topped the then-MPSA ranks. The anticipation leading up to today’s 3 p.m. kickoff at the Starkville Sportsplex hasn’t rattled the team down the stretch. Artie Cosby’s squad is built around nine seniors, which is why he feels his team needs no talking to about avoiding a letdown.
TUPELO — The game plan didn’t change. The pregame speech didn’t change. The only thing that changed Tuesday night was the degree of discipline and the level of execution the Columbus High School boys basketball team delivered. As a result, the Falcons will live to play again. Bobby Wrench and Akeem Toppin scored 16 points each to lead Columbus to a 62-59 victory against Tupelo in the Class 6A, Division 2, District 4 tournament at Tupelo High School.
BENTON –– Taylor Baudoin scored a game-high 24 points and had 16 rebounds, five assists, and six steals Tuesday to lead the Immanuel Christian Lady Rams past Tri-County Academy 58-33 in the MAIS Class A North Central State Tournament. Immanuel (18-12) outscored Tri-County each quarter and led 14-10, 24-12, and 39-24 at the quarter breaks. Also for the Lady Rams, Bailey Edwards had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three steals, and Abby Good had eight points and seven rebounds.
Building Mississippi State University football never stops for Dan Mullen, not even thousands of feet in the air.
STARKVILLE — Another Rick Stansbury media gathering went by Monday with the Mississippi State University men’s basketball coach feeling pretty much the same about his team’s progression and the tools he has to work with.
The second season begins tonight. It’s time for the area basketball teams to put the ups and downs of the regular season behind them and to take care of business.
STEENS — New role, no problem. A year ago, Justin James was the young gun in an Immanuel Christian boys basketball starting lineup with four seniors. It was natural for James to defer to his more experienced teammates and let them take the leadership role.
STARKVILLE — Rima Kalonda isn’t as smooth as Armelie Lumanu. Kalonda also doesn’t have the silky shooting touch or the shot-blocker’s reach of Chanel Mokango. But just because Kalonda has different strengths than her Mississippi State women’s basketball teammates doesn’t mean she isn’t playing a key role in the team’s success.
STARKVILLE — The numbers are staggering. For three seasons, Chelsea Bramlett has laid waste to Mississippi State softball records. As a junior last season, Bramlett established new single-season marks for batting average (.486) and stolen bases (54). In the process, she became the school’s career leader in each category (.438, 146) to add to the fact she already is MSU’s leader in stolen bases percentage (.913), stolen bases per game (0.82), and runs per game (0.92). It’s scary to think even more marks — including NCAA records — could fall this year.
STARKVILLE –– With Friday’s revelation that Mississippi State will petition for Renardo Sidney’s reinstatement instead of appealing the NCAA’s findings on the freshman forward’s amateur status, all that’s left now is for the NCAA to decide what Sidney’s punishment will be. First reported by The Clarion Ledger on Friday, Don Jackson said MSU has moved forward by petitioning the NCAA to reinstate its McDonald’s High School All-American. Mississippi State associate athletic director for compliance Bracky Brett declined comment Saturday.
The West Lowndes High School boys basketball team earned even more legitimacy — at least in Lowndes County — on Friday night. Now the Panthers’ challenge is to back up what they earned from a season sweep of Columbus in their district tournament later this week. Demetrius Malone scored a game-high 25 points and Clemmie Hairston’s layup in overtime provided the go-ahead points that allowed West Lowndes to defeat Columbus 61-57.
MACON — The Starkville High School girls basketball team avoided an upset Friday, staving off a fourth quarter rally by Noxubee County for a 53-37 win. Starkville’s Shay Bonner led all scorers with 17 points, while teammate Kala Williams finished with 10. The Lady Jackets entered the game a day after dropping a one-point district home loss to South Panola.
The Columbus High School baseball team First-Pitch Banquet will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the school’s cafeteria. Former Columbus High, Itawamba Community College, and Mississippi State football standout Tyson Lee will be the guest speaker. “We use it to kick off the season, establish some alumni support, and get them back involved in the program,” Columbus High coach Jeff Cook said. “It’s a good way to come out and see the players we have and, of course, listen to Tyson, who is a fine speaker. It’s a good way to get the season started.”
1. Bulldogs turn attention to UAB COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Player of Week: Davis, Starkville off to fast start HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Heritage Academy looks to build on first win HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS