GENE PHELPS: Lady Troopers turned corner at Lee County Tournament

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

MOOREVILLE – The photo of 5-foot-3 Mooreville point guard Betsy Kingsley lifting the Lee County Tournament’s championship trophy above her head while her smiling, cheering, taller teammates look on in amazement will forever be etched in the mind of this gray-bearded sportswriter.
I didn’t have to read our coverage to know what had transpired the night of Jan. 7 in Saltillo.
Deste Lee’s picture, as they say, was worth a thousand words.
The Lady Troopers had won a championship, the county championship, for the first time ever … at least, as far back as anybody connected to the school can remember.
Mooreville’s third-year girls basketball coach, Kala Parker, a starter on Belmont’s 2001 state championship team, certainly felt that title-winning rush again.
“That sent us over the edge,” she said. “It was so huge for these girls, a turning point. It felt like we’d won a state championship.
“That made the girls realize that it is possible for us to be successful.”
Kingsley, a junior who averages 10.8 points and 2.3 steals per game, said that while winning the county tournament achieved one goal, it did even more for the team’s psyche and support.
“It helped us gain some recognition and it helped our thinking as well,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of people behind us now. We have a lot of support.”
Mooreville’s 61-58 win that night was the third victory in an eventual eight-game streak, one that ended earlier this week with a disappointing road loss to Division 2-3A foe South Pontotoc.
However, despite the loss, the Lady Troopers, 18-8 overall, can secure a high seed in next week’s division tournament with a win tonight against Winona.
“We’re going to fight back,” Kingsley said. “We want to win the division tournament.”
Parker believes her team is up to the challenge of a postseason run. She points to her club’s senior leadership on and off the court. Another plus is the team’s balanced scoring.
Senior post player Katie Cobb averages 11 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game to lead the charge. The other senior starters are Lauren Lewis, who averages a team-high 11.3 points and 6.3 boards and guard Anna West, who averages 9.3 points.
Kinglsey and guard Savannah Webb, a sophomore, round out the starting lineup. Seniors Ashley Boren and Kristen Lewis add help off the bench.
“These kids practice hard every day,” Parker said. “Even those players on the bench give us great support and help us prepare to play.
“They all the have the same goals and attitude.”
Parker admits this team, one that has beaten postseason contenders Kossuth and Itawamba AHS, has exceeded her expectations. She was 8-18 her first season and 11-15 last year.
“Finishing .500 would have been big to me,” she said. “As we’ve progressed our goals have gotten higher.
“We’re taking it one step at a time. We’d love to get in there (the North half) and play against Belmont and Ripley, two teams who have been to Jackson.”
Maybe, just maybe, another celebration photo could be in the Lady Troopers’ future.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593
or gene.phelps@journalinc.com.