BY JOHN WILBERT
After winning a second consecutive MHSAA Class 2A state championship on Friday, H.W. Byers girls basketball head coach Jason Thompson said he firmly believes he has the best backcourt in the state.
While that may be nearly impossible to prove, what will be confirmed after this weekend is who is the best high school girls basketball team in Mississippi for the 2008-2009 season.
The three-day Grand Slam begins today and Thompson's team takes on Class 1A champ McAdams at 6 p.m. at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Win that game and the Lady Lions (34-4) will play Raymond (32-2) in the semifinals on Friday at 1 p.m.
The championship game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
But Thompson knows that McAdams (34-1) will be no pushover. In fact, he expects today's game to not only be competitive, but to be a battle of wits.
After all, Thompson's college buddy, who he shares the same birthday with, will be coaching his opponent. Thompson said McAdams coach Kenyon Ross and he were awfully competitive in almost everything they did in college, whether playing Connect Four or video games.
"We've been trash talking back and forth, just kind of having fun with it," said Thompson, who roomed with Ross for three years at Mississippi Valley State. "He said, 'We're going to go gimmick for gimmick.'
"We're just going to get after one another and coach our butts off, and let the chips fall where they may."
The Lady Lions will have to contend with a Lady Bulldogs team that is difficult to beat when their shots fall from outside.
McAdams hit eight 3-pointers in its 1A championship win against Coldwater.
But Byers can also hit the 3-ball, as evidenced by its 13 triples against Bruce in a North half playoff game last month. Seniors Rachel Jones and Amanda Jones combined for 32 points that game and 33 in last Friday's state championship game.
Win or lose in the Grand Slam, the Byers seniors - the two Joneses, Ciara Seldon, Kenyata Gulledge and Symone Gorman - will have come a long way. All five seniors will be going to college.
"We're hoping Saturday will be a great climax to a great career for all five seniors," Thompson said.