Shemar Johnson downplayed his emotions Tuesday night. Playing in front of a packed New Hope High School student section for the final time, Johnson jammed home two monster dunks for old times sake.
MABEN -- If you were to look on paper at the West Oktibbeha County High School boys basketball team's 81-51 victory against Dexter in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A State tournament Tuesday night, it might seem like just another ordinary first-round victory.
GRENADA -- The Columbus High School boys basketball team opened the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A State tournament with a 67-47 win against Grenada on Tuesday night.
Wendell Rieves wants to get back to the "Big House." Last season, Rieves was a junior on the West Lowndes High School boys basketball team that advanced to play in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A State tournament at Mississippi Coliseum. A disappointing loss to Shaw left a bad taste in the mouths of all of the West Lowndes players and provided ample motivation for the 2014-15 season.
MABEN -- Danny Crawford had a feeling about his West Oktibbeha County High School boys basketball team. Even though the Timberwolves only have eight players, Crawford knew his team's size on the front line would serve it well as it made a playoff push in the second half of the season.
There are no more reprieves. There also are no more third-place games to help teams extend their seasons. Starting tonight, area boys and girls basketball teams will have to win or they will have to go home. The New Hope (Class 5A), Aberdeen (Class 3A), West Oktibbeha and West Lowndes (Class 1A) high school boys basketball teams will play host to Mississippi High School Activities Associations games tonight, while Columbus (Class 6A), West Point (Class 5A), East Oktibbeha and Hamilton (Class 1A) will go on the road to try to extend their seasons.
One choice didn't force Daniel Merchant to turn his back on his alma mater. Instead, when Merchant learned in January that the head football coach position at Sulligent High School was open again, the 2004 graduate of the school re-applied for the position.
WEST POINT -- The New Hope High School boys basketball team nearly made everyone forget its slow start. Somehow after scoring only four points in the first quarter and trailing by 16 points, New Hope found itself in the lead, 55-54, following a steal by Jaylon Bardley and a thunderous dunk by Shemar Johnson with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining against Oxford in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 title game at West Point High. But that would be the only lead the Trojans would taste.
Terry Tate tip-toed along the West Oktibbeha sideline repeatedly Friday night. The Timberwolves' point guard was often flushed to that side by the West Lowndes High School boys basketball team's 2-2-1 press. The pressure forced the eighth-grader into a string of turnovers in the second half of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A, Region 5 championship game Friday night at West Lowndes High.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School girls basketball coach Kristie Williams commonly refers to the season as a marathon instead of a sprint. Friday night had to feel like two marathons. For the third time this season, Starkville was taken to the brink by archrival Columbus. Again, the Lady Jackets survived.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School senior Josh Skinner breaks down the formula for the boys basketball team's success at home this season as a three-step process. "It starts with being excited and ready at the tip," Skinner said. "Then all five guys on the floor play some great defense. Everybody is active and we get some easy steals and get the other team rattled a little bit."
Roosevelt Bridges knows the road back to Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson isn't going to be easy.
Columbus High School boys basketball coach Sammy Smith knows his team can deliver a better effort than it gave Tuesday night in the opening round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 3 tournament.
WEST POINT -- His team needed a play, so Willie Ousley made one. And when the New Hope High School boys basketball team needed free throws down the stretch to close a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 1 tournament win against Saltillo, Ousley did that, too. With New Hope protecting a one-point lead late in its first-round game Tuesday night, Saltillo had the ball and a chance to take the lead with less than 30 seconds remaining. But the Tigers were a bit out of control with the basketball and Ousley seized the opportunity.
STARKVILLE -- Early in the second quarter, Starkville High School senior Raphael Leonard leaped through the air, snagged a loose basketball, and threw it over his back to a waiting teammate. Seconds later, the improbable save led to an easy basket. Leonard made several similar catches in a standout career at wide receiver for the school's football team. On Tuesday night, he was clearing a baseline instead of a goal line, but his effort epitomized the grit and determination of all of his teammates. A lightning-fast start carried Starkville past Columbus 62-49 in an opening-round game of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 3 tournament being at Starkville High.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School sophomore center Kelsey Jones knew her team needed a lift Tuesday night. Jones stepped up and provided it. Scoring nine points in a five-minute stretch of the fourth quarter, Jones helped Starkville work its way past Madison Central 47-28 in an opening-round game of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 3 tournament Tuesday night at Starkville High.
STARKVILLE -- Columbus High School girls basketball coach Yvonne Hairston knew her team was capable of winning its opening game in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 3 tournament. Still, there is no way she could have envisioned victory happening the way it did. Down three points in the final minute of the second half, Columbus went on a 27-0 run to defeat Northwest Rankin 69-39 in the tournament's opening game Tuesday at the Starkville High.
WEST POINT -- For the better part of two seasons, junior guard Quiyon Bailey has meant everything to West Point High School girls basketball team. West Point coach Dashmond Daniel admits the Lady Green Wave have relied on Bailey a little too much. "Last year, it seemed like the rest of our team would be a little timid about it. They'd get her the ball and just try to get out of the way," Daniel said. "She's still a great player, but the rest of our girls have realized this is a team effort, and it has made us a better basketball team."
STEENS -- Defense is a source of confidence for Alec Vasquez. It's not that the Columbus Christian Academy junior doesn't like to score. It's just that Vasquez believes his team has plenty of other players who can fuel the offense, so his efforts on defense help balance things. But if the Rams need Vasquez to pitch in and contribute on offense, he is more than willing to step in and lend a hand.
Last Wednesday, Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell looked like a tired man.
1. MSU women will face biggest test at South Carolina COLLEGE SPORTS
2. MSU announces extension, raise for Mullen COLLEGE SPORTS
3. No. 11 MSU women fall at No. 2 South Carolina COLLEGE SPORTS
5. No. 1 Kentucky too much for MSU COLLEGE SPORTS