BRANDON SPECK: Two gold balls and more to remember from title week

Charles A. Smith | Buy at Booneville coach Michael Smith, left, accepts the Class 3A girls championship trophy on Friday.

Charles A. Smith | Buy at
Booneville coach Michael Smith, left, accepts the Class 3A girls championship trophy on Friday.




The MHSAA state basketball tournament has come and gone again and will be remembered for a lot of things – unexpected gold balls, successful new coaches and a championship that was practically taken away from one area team.

The heartfelt

Katie Bates had just watched her Pine Grove team come seconds away from one of the most unexpected state championships in tournament history, a 39-34 loss against undefeated JFK.

Asked about what she told her team in the locker room, she had this to say.

“What do you tell a group of girls that have laid every single fiber of their being on that court? They are a different group,” Bates said. “They are a very special group. They don’t have the most talent. They don’t have the size or the quickness, but they have the work ethic, the drive, the heart bigger than anybody. There’s not one single girl in this tournament that I would rather coach than the girls that are on that team.”

The unfortunate

New Site’s girls didn’t get to make their regularly scheduled tournament appearance. Unfortunate too, considering the Lady Royals may have had the best season they’ve had.

New Site beat 2A champ Byers by 27 points, 3A champ Booneville twice, once by 26, and 4A champ Itawamba by nine. If ever a reason for next year’s four-team format, see New Site.

The more unfortunate

The Class 2A title game was the talk of the tournament. Well, the officials were the talk.

With Baldwyn up a point in the final minute, point guard Conner McKay, who probably hasn’t double dribbled since elementary, was whistled for double dribbling. Then a freshman Felix Hayes was whistled out of bounds.

Video shows both were obvious bad calls, particularly the call made on McKay.

He was bumped before the whistle, in front of a referee, then called for doubling by an official out of position, who had to run around at least three players to see him.

Calls rarely change the outcome of games. Those did in a 45-43 Marshall win. And it’s not just Baldwyn that is irritated. Twitter has been ablaze with spectators appalled.

The coaching effect

Two girls coaches in their first seasons as head coach left Jackson with gold balls, Michael Smith with Booneville and Devin Hill with Itawamba AHS.

Smith had to abruptly take over in October and Hill had to be convinced to take the job. Booneville had one senior and had never won a state title. Itawamba AHS lost four starters and hadn’t won since 1952.

No one expected either to win it. Both did.

That has a lot to do with players playing, but also – whether they admit it or not – the coaches coaching.

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