By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Lainey Little has already proven she’s good at playing catchup. But she has a ways to go to catch up with her father, Biggersville coach Cliff Little.
Little has his Class 1A Lions back in the MHSAA state semifinals today, a familiar territory for him.
He has guided four previous teams to Jackson, three as head coach at East Webster, where he won a title in 2008. Biggersville lost in the title game last season.
Little, 34, hasn’t missed attending a state tournament since seventh grade, a streak of 21 years.
Lainey, who turns 6 today, has only missed one. The youngest Little was born premature to Cliff and Jana on Mar. 1, 2007 and weighed barely more than a pound. She has caught up with her age and is now trying to catch up with her dad’s streak.
Her first game was a celebratory trip to Mississippi Coliseum, as she turned 1-year-old and had just been released to get out and about.
Lainey, whose middle name is Jackson, had a hotel-room birthday party on Thursday night and was specific in her gift request.
“She wants a picture of the Big House and all the ballplayers numbers on the cake,” Cliff Little said. “We are very fortunate and blessed.”
Baldwyn senior Tevin Lindsey once wore No. 23. He switched to No. 10 last season to honor a fallen teammate, Marcus Martin. Baldwyn coach Jason McKay said when you saw Lindsey, Dee Gates, Mason Penson or Martin, you saw them all.
Martin was diagnosed with cancer and had to stop playing basketball before his sophomore year. He died on Christmas Day, 2011.
Linsdey switched to Martin’s No. 10 to honor his memory and Baldwyn made a run to the state championship game last season.
“We were real close. He was like a brother to me,” Lindsey said. “He wanted to play ball so I switched to his number in dedication. He would have wanted to play.”
Lindsey switched to another number in January, 3, a tribute to fellow senior and point guard Dee Gates, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, torn ACL.
McKay says Gates’ recovery is going great.
“I feel like he can still play D-I,” McKay said. “Dee Gates is going to be fully recovered.”