By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
Amid historical baggage and playing a Jackson team in Jackson, Grant Pate feels his Tupelo Golden Wave basketball team is still motivated.
Perhaps even with a chip on their shoulders.
Whatever motivational tools Pate has in his bag, the Wave will need all of them today as Tupelo faces Jim Hill at 8:45 p.m. for the Class 6A State Championship at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“For most of the season, these guys feel they were not given their due, and they’ve been motivated,” Pate said. “Losing four starters from a good team last season attributed to it, and it’s helped this team stay focused all year.”
Tupelo (26-8) might not be the only team with a chip on it shoulder in this contest as Jim Hill (23-11) certainly wants to avenge its 43-42 loss to the Wave in the North championship game Feb. 18.
“I still don’t think anybody feels we can win this game,” Tupelo senior forward Josh Hamilton said. “I think we need to come out more intense early than the last time we played them.”
A hill to climb
Jim Hill is led by 6-foot-5 Mississippi State signee Fred Thomas, who scored 20 points in the previous meeting with Tupelo, and 27 points Wednesday in a 65-53 win against Gulfport. Thomas is the only Jim Hill player average double figures at 19.5 points per game, with Ben Scales next at 8.5 ppg, and Trishunn White at 8.3 ppg.
“The first time we played, we tried to limit his touches, and keep him off the boards,” Pate said of the Wave’s defense against Thomas. “Our depth was key in that game.
“Jim Hill does a good job controlling tempo, and its important for us to pick up the tempo.”
Jim Hill has not played in a championship game since 2005, or won a title of any kind since 1962.
Tupelo comes in with a bit of state tournament baggage as well. The Tupelo boys have not won a basketball title since 1968, and have not played in a championship game since 1990.
Rashon Coleman leads the Wave in scoring at 15.0 ppg, with Dajon Reno at 12.8 ppg. Reno had 15 points against Jim Hill in the previous meeting, including the game-winning shot with seven seconds remaining.