BRANDON SPECK: Success came earlier than expected for confident Indians

BRANDON SPECK

BRANDON SPECK

JACKSON

Four times Devin Hill was asked to take over the Itawamba AHS girls basketball team.

“I said no … four times,” Hill said, holding up four fingers.

He left Mississippi Coliseum Saturday afternoon holding up his ring finger after his Lady Indians beat defending champion and all-year No. 1 4A team Bay St. Louis 42-41 in the state championship.

Former coach Amanda Morrow stepped down after last season, a decision made simply to spend more time with her family. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

Rebuilding went quickly, with big production from young players like sophomore Constance Dunn, the MVP of Saturday’s game with a 14-point, 12-rebound performance.

Hill, still the boys coach, reluctantly took over. He inherited a team that lost six seniors, four starters, with Kim Mallory the only true returning starter.

But Hill has always had two things with him, a smile and a ton of confidence, even in his previous job, a challenging one coaching Hamilton’s boys. Even then, out-manned in nearly every game Hamilton played, he beamed confidence.

That didn’t change when he took over the Lady Indians, a 10-player roster. Even battling in a division with tournament favorites Pontotoc and Shannon, Hill expected to be doing this interview at this time.

“We really did,” Hill said. “We preached it from day one, our No. 1 goal was to get to Jackson and win it all. People may have thought it was crazy, but we honestly thought at the beginning of the year we would be here right now.

“Ten girls, three coaches. We did it.

“I believe we shocked the state of Mississippi.”

Hill mentioned during the North 4A tournament at his gym that the season was like a road map, with stops along the way to get them prepared for this day.

There were bumps, potholes really, along that road, like a 25-point loss against Pontotoc in the Division 1-4A finals. After that loss, six straight wins, including a North title, to get to the 30 each player had written atop their hands.

“Yes, I knew we could get here,” Dunn said. “I had confidence.”

She probably got that from Hill.

brandon.speck@journalinc.com