By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
ROSEDALE – In an attempt to wake up his offense Saturday night, New Site coach Byron Sparks looked to his two sparkplugs – Morgan Pearson and Christy Clark.
The move paid off.
Pearson and Clark sank back-to-back 3-pointers off pick-and-rolls to help erase a 9-point deficit late in the second quarter of the Lady Royals’ North Mississippi Class 2A championship game victory, 44-40, over J.Z. George.
“Those two 3s before the half were huge,” Sparks said. “We came out sluggish for some reason and didn’t shoot well or rebound well.
“Once we got loose, we started making plays.”
The North championship was the third straight for the Lady Royals (26-4), who will play South No. 2 seed Lake, a 56-41 loser to Scott Central, at 1 p.m. Saturday in the state tournament semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
“I told the girls they don’t realize how big it is to win three in a row,” Sparks said. “I’m proud of them.”
What makes the title even more special is the fact that the Lady Royals have played more than half their season without the services of preseason all-state guard Krystal Jackson, who was sidelined in December.
The 3-pointers by Pearson, who scored 22 points, and Clark, who finished with 13, helped close the Lady Jaguars’ lead to 22-21 at halftime.
J.Z. George’s taller inside lineup gave the Lady Royals fits in the first half. In the second half, New Site attempted to run more to wear down its bigger foe.
“We had trouble going inside in the first half,” said Pearson, a 5-foot-10 forward. “They were bigger than us. Coach told us to start pushing them out of the way and the ball would come to us.”
Pearson and Clark each hit 3s in the third quarter as New Site took a 34-29 lead. The Lady Royals pushed their lead to 39-31 with 4 minutes, 39 seconds remaining, then held on.
A key basket for New Site down the stretch was a rebound and putback by freshman post player Shelby Stricklen.
“She knows how to finish; she does what she has to do,” Pearson said. “We’ve had a lot of freshmen step up and make plays this season.”
Kim White scored 13 points to lead J.Z. George (26-5). The Lady Jaguars will also play Saturday as the North’s No. 2 seed.
• Game summary, Page 2B