By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – From one of the worst teams in the state to one of the best. That’s where the Lafayette High girls basketball team finds itself in a span of just two years.
During her first two years as the Lady Commodores head coach, Amy Sutton saw her team win only 10 games.
After the 2007-08 season, in which the Lady ‘Dores went 3-26, Sutton witnessed dramatic improvement in her squad. Her team went 16-14 last year, but realized it was on the verge of being more than just a good team.
A long-awaited victory over rival Oxford last season gave Lafayette a new confidence.
“It showed this is what we’re capable of doing,” said Sutton, who is now in her fourth season as Lafayette’s head coach. “These girls actually saw the fruits of their labor.
“We went on to host the North State Tournament for the first time in a while. I think it really set the tone for what was expected of them going into this season.”
This season, the Lady Commodores are not just playing in the North State Tournament. They are playing for a MHSAA Class 4A state championship – and that effort begins tonight at 6:30 when they play Raymond in a State Tournament semifinal at Mississippi Coliseum.
Did Sutton have to depend on transfer players so that her program could undergo a complete transformation?
No, because she coached many of her team’s upperclassmen when they were at the Lafayette Middle School. Sutton was a varsity assistant and middle school coach for Lafayette prior to becoming the head coach.
The credit for this year’s 29-2 record goes largely to seven players: Phylisha Fondren, Shaquilla Isom, Mariah Buford, Mykira Buford, Nikki McChristian, Sherneal Thompson and Mariah Hairston.
“I think what separates us from other teams is that we don’t have a quote-unquote superstar,” Sutton said. “We don’t have that one player, that if you shut her down, our offense falls to pieces.
“If one of our team members is having an off game, we have several girls that step up and perform their roles. They go a little harder when they see a teammate struggle, and as a team we play harder.”
Lafayette’s two losses this season were to New Albany, and the Lady ‘Dores could get their revenge in the Class 4A state title game.
If New Albany beats Northeast Lauderdale in this afternoon’s state semifinal and the Lady ‘Dores knock off Raymond tonight, then the two North Mississippi teams will play Friday night at 7 for the 4A “gold ball” trophy at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Center Hill vs. Bay St. Louis – 8:00 p.m.
NE Lauderdale vs. New Albany – 1:00 p.m.
St. Stanislaus vs. Pontotoc – 2:30 p.m.
Lafayette County vs. Raymond – 6:30 p.m.