OXFORD — Jim Foster didn’t have an elaborate explanation. Late in the second half Sunday, the veteran Ohio State women’s basketball coach almost looked resigned to that fact that the University of Mississippi was going to upset his No. 9 Buckeyes. Then something unexpected happened.
STARKVILLE — Dan Mullen believes the foundation has been laid for Mississippi State football program. The former assistant coach at the University of Florida saw many positive signs in his first year as head coach of the Bulldogs, and he plans to build on them in the coming months. Record crowds at Davis Wade Stadium, the accomplishments of senior running back Anthony Dixon, the emergence of young players, and MSU’s season-ending 41-27 victory against the University of Mississippi encouraged Mullen.
CRAWFORD -- East Oktibbeha High School girls basketball coach Randy Brooks has accepted it will be a learning process for his team this season. That’s why a win like the one the Lady Titans got Saturday night put a smile on his face. It was almost not a happy situation. After jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first half of its game against rival West Oktibbeha High School, East Oktibbeha held on for a 52-51 victory.
STARKVILLE -- Tyson Lee remembers seeing the movie “Rudy” and he loved it. Now the Mississippi State quarterback has a chance to win an award named after the film. Lee, of Columbus, has been nominated for the third-annual Rudy Award as announced by The Rudy Foundation. The award honors student-athletes who demonstrate character, courage, contribution and commitment for their teams. Those traits were exhibited by Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger in the movie. Ruettiger was a character who beat all odds to play in a college football game.
William Jones said thanks but no thanks Tuesday to Itawamba Community College. The East Mississippi C.C. associate head coach interviewed for the vacant head football coach job at ICC and was offered the position Monday night. But Jones said Thursday that he and the school couldn’t come to terms that satisfied him, so he declined the offer to become ICC’s new coach.
STARVILLE — Chanel Mokango doesn’t know how many times she has heard the word tough in her short time in Mississippi. How effectively the senior center plays with that kind of spirit, though, likely will have a huge impact on the Mississippi State women’s basketball’s 2009-10 season. So far, the 6-foot-5 center is still working to find the right balance to her game. Mokango and MSU (5-3) will try to take another step closer to their comfort zone at 7 p.m. Saturday when it plays against Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La.
Kayla Melson is making the best of a difficult situation. In the preseason, the University of Mississippi women’s basketball team lost junior guard Alliesha Easley to a season-ending knee injury. The loss of an experienced and versatile player like Easley would have crippled many other teams, but Melson is helping the Rebels make the best out of a trying predicament. Melson, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, is second on the tam in scoring at 11.8 points per game. She also is averaging 4.8 rebounds per game and is second on the team with 40 assists and tied for second with 12 steals.
Immanuel Christian coach Billy Thomas got something more out of a pair of underclassmen during Thursday night’s game against Starkville Christian School. Sophomore Ross Moore had 17 points to lead the Rams and junior Justin James added 12 points to defeat the visiting Cougars 50-44. James had a pair of baskets and two free throws to get the fourth quarter started, then Moore had five-straight points to give Immanuel a 39-35 lead with 4 minutes and 16 minutes remaining in the game.
Nineteen local prep football players and one coach were honored earlier this week when the Mississippi Association of Coaches announced its All-State teams. Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state champion West Point and Class 3A runner-up Aberdeen led the way with five players recognized. West Point High’s Chris Chambless was chosen MAC Coach of the Year for guiding the Green Wave (14-1) past Wayne County 35-14 on Saturday for the school’s sixth state title.
MACON –– Ferris McGuire poured in a game-high 26 points Thursday night to lead the Central Academy boys basketball team past Russell Christian 53-48. Central Academy (2-4) trailed 33-26 at halftime before outscoring Russell Christian 13-4 in the third quarter and 14-11 in the fourth. McGuire was followed in scoring by Chris Newman with nine points, Cole Newman with six and Rowdy Rigdon with five.
STARKVILLE — Ravern Johnson understands the importance of playing defense. The Mississippi State junior guard never has been afraid to shoot the basketball, but defense hasn’t always come as easily for him. Even though the benefits don’t always show up in the boxscore, Johnson has learned concentrating on defense can make a difference.
STARKVILLE — East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens couldn’t help sneaking a peak at the Starkville High School highlight video Wednesday night before sitting down for his meal.
The Pickens Academy boys basketball will have a chance to add a trophy to its school’s display case for the second-consecutive weekend when it plays host to its tournament. Pickens County, which won the Southern Academy Tournament in Greensboro, Ala., last weekend, will play host to the tournament Friday and Saturday.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen appeared surprised his name surfaced last week in connection with the vacancy at the University of Kansas. Not long after Kansas announced the resignation of Mark Mangino, Mullen’s name surfaced as a possible replacement in an Associated Press story by Doug Tucker. Mullen quickly put those rumors to rest and said he hadn’t been in contact with anyone at Kansas. He said his family loves living in Mississippi.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning realizes how important junior offensive tackle Derek Sherrod is for the Bulldogs. Other coaches from around the Southeastern Conference have learned how valuable Sherrod is to the Bulldogs as they picked him on the All-SEC second-team on a list released Tuesday. “I’m very proud of him,” Koenning said. “It’s a great honor for him and this football team. It was a reward and a good deal for him. I know he’s proud of it and he’s well deserving.”
Bill Lee and Pat Byrd weren’t going to run and hide from losing records. Their decisions to leave Starkville and Amory high schools, respectively, were difficult despite what was perceived as the poor status of their programs. The coaches will now move on to other challenges. Lee has decided to retire and spend more time in the ministry and his family, while Byrd will try to resurrect the program at Saltillo High.
HAMILTON –– Tyler White poued in 18 points Tuesday to lead the Heritage Academy boys basketball team past Hamilton High School 56-45. Will West scored 12 points and Hunter Brown scored 11 for Heritage Academy (5-3). n Heritage Academy 63, Hamilton 21 (G): At Hamilton, Christibeth Nelson scored 13 points to help the Lady Patriots beat the Lady Lions. Joanna West scored 10 points and Madison Ford scored nine for Heritage Academy (4-7).
MACON — T.J. Billups had moments of relative relaxation doing double duty Tuesday night. Unfortunately, periods of aggravated twitching, frustrated twisting, and agitated standing ruined what could have been an overly satisfying evening for the Noxubee County High girls and boys basketball coach. Jeraldine Campbell scored 17 of her game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the Noxubee County girls pull away and defeat West Point 55-49.
ABERDEEN — The Aberdeen and Starkville high school basketball teams split a varsity doubleheader here Tuesday evening in the Roy E. Hazzle Gymnasium. In a marquee matchup that was supposed to feature two unbeaten girls teams led by a pair of high-profile scorers, Aberdeen’s Dayana McGee came up with a clutch rebound and Regina Barker popped in a buzzer-beating layup to steal the spotlight from their more celebrated teammate and give the Lady Bulldogs a 64-62 triumph — their sixth straight win of the season. The nightcap didn’t bode as well for the recently re-stocked Bulldogs, however, as Aberdeen stalled in the third quarter and dropped a 67-49 decision to the Yellow Jackets in coach Roy Hazzle’s first game in the newly named gymnasium.
STARKVILLE — The postseason recognition continues for Mississippi State senior running back Anthony Dixon. One week after taking home the Cellular South Conerly Trophy as Mississippi’s top college player, Dixon earned first-team honors on The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference team.
1. Bulldogs ready to forget past, focus on Texas A&M COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Ole Miss overlooks hype, readies for No. 1 Alabama COLLEGE SPORTS
3. MSU gets good grades for first four games COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Unbeaten MSU receives high marks on defense COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Defense delivers dominating effort for Rebels COLLEGE SPORTS