By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
JACKSON – Lainey Jackson Little says she wants a gold ball for her birthday. Her Biggersville Lions are a step closer to delivering it.
With a 64-44 win against Durant in Saturday’s MHSAA Class 1A semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum, Biggersville earned a berth in Friday’s state championship game, one day after Lions’ coach Cliff Little’s daughter turns 5.
That gold ball will have to come after a win against either West Lincoln or Coldwater.
And for a girl named after the state capital, what gift could be better?
“We’re excited to be in this position,” Little said. “I thought we pressured the basketball, pushed the ball and I was tickled to death with our guard play early.”
Jaylon Gaines smiled when his 5-foot-9 frame came down from a dunk over Durant’s Cedric Common.
His slam and free throw put the Lions ahead 26-11 and by the time Dexter Stafford emphatically slammed home his second dunk, it was 40-20.
Stafford, an unheralded senior, scored a game-high 18 points and had nine rebounds in the win. Fellow sophomores Gaines and Daniel Simmons had 13 apiece while Tevin Watson scored 11.
Durant had beaten Biggersville 70-68 in January in the North Pontotoc Classic.
“The main thing is our defensive pressure,” Little said. “These guys have kind of hung their hat on defensive pressure all year. They like to pick you up full court and if nothing else, run you to death. Our depth was key again tonight.”
A pair of Watson free throws in the fourth gave Biggersville its biggest lead at 25.
Durant got 17 points from Theodore Haynes but shot only 28.3 percent.
Little, now in his first year at Biggersville, led East Webster to a boys’ championship in 2008, which turned out to be Lainey’s first game.
Little was on his way to Jackson as an assistant coach for the East Webster girls in the 2007 finals as his wife Jana was called in for tests. Lainey was born two days later – three months ahead of schedule – at 1 pound, 15 ounces and earned her middle name.