Slow start puzzles Lady Bulldogs' Spears

By John Wilbert and Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Jazmine Spears wasn’t sure what caused a dismal first-half performance in Monday afternoon’s MHSAA Class 4A state semifinal game against South Jones.
“I don’t even know,” the New Albany sophomore standout said of her 1 for 7 shooting from the floor in the first half. “They just weren’t falling for me. I don’t know what happened. I just had to pick it up in the second half.”
A first quarter in which she was 0 for 5 from the floor and a first half in which she had two points and two rebounds is definitely a cause for concern for a player who had been averaging 18 and 12, said Spears’ coach, John Stroud.
“She made her mind up at halftime to start playing,” he said.
Spears ended up with a double-double, going 6 for 6 from the field and grabbing 10 boards in the final 16 minutes. She also had four blocks and two steals in 31 minutes.
Those final numbers are certainly a lot better than the first-half ones.
“Keoysha Wilson held her pretty good there in that first half,” South Jones coach Sherri Cooley said about her 6-foot-1 post player limiting Spears. “Keoysha, she’s pretty physical and she’s quick. ”
Too busy to scout
• Lawrence County coach Vicki Rutland didn’t scout New Albany in its 4A semifinal win Monday afternoon against South Jones.
She was too busy making final preparations for her team’s night semifinal against Pontotoc, which the Lady Cougars won, 62-54.
“(South Jones) Coach Sherri Cooley is a friend of mind, I’ll call her,” Rutland said, then smiled. “We know New Albany’s big and a complete team.
“We’re going to enjoy this tonight, then get back in the gym and focus on what we do.”
Two semifinals, two sports
• Moses Kingsley had been doing double duty for New Albany.
As a forward for the Bulldogs soccer team, he helped lead his new school to the MHSAA Class 4A state semifinals, where it lost 2-0 to Amory on Feb. 2.
Two weeks later, the exchange student from Nigeria played a significant role in the New Albany boys basketball team gaining a berth in the Class 4A basketball state semifinals.
“When I came here, I said I was going to play soccer,” Kingsley said. “Everybody was like, ‘It’s going to be cold.’
“I just have to play because I love to play and I want to play and I want to play for my school. I don’t think cold weather can stop me from playing.”
While soccer is more popular in his native land, the 6-foot-9 New Albany sophomore considers basketball to be his favorite and best sport.
“Just the way kids start playing football over here when they’re little, that’s when we start playing soccer in Nigeria,” Kingsley said of the first sport he started playing.
For the record: Kingsley didn’t start playing basketball until 2007.
Glory days
• John Stroud’s 1986 New Albany boys team won a state championship in this building 25 years ago.
“Have you talked with your players about that,” a reporter asked Stroud.
“No, they don’t like to hear those stories,” he replied. “That’s right,” added Spears. his sophomore forward.