Division basketball tourneys tip next week

GREENE

GREENE

By Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

Corinth has been almost as successful as a team can be the last three seasons. Taking the “almost” out of that statement starts next week, as division basketball tournaments open MHSAA postseason play around the state.

The Warriors, No. 1 in Northeast Mississippi, have lost in three straight state title games, and a semifinal five seasons ago, beaten by eventual champ Pass Christian that year, too.

“We think we’ve been pretty good, but we have not won the ultimate prize,” Corinth coach Keith Greene said. “It’s nice to get there, but it sure would be nice to bring one back home.”

Hosted by Itawamba Community College, Division 1-4A presents one of the area’s most contested tournaments, on the boys and girls side. Corinth, Shannon and Pontotoc expected to compete for the boys title while Itawamba AHS, Pontotoc and Shannon will battle in girls play.

Corinth’s boys finished second to Shannon in the regular season, so both get first-round byes and automatic bids into the North state tournament a week from Tuesday.

Corinth has familiar faces, like seniors Desmin Harris and Raheem Sorrell, but newer ones too, like junior Kendall Stafford and sophomore Antares Gwyn. But they’ve all traveled this road before.

The Warriors (20-4) lost to Shannon at home in the season’s final regular season division game, meaning a tougher road in the tournament that likely means facing Pontotoc first.

Upstart Pontotoc shocked Corinth back on Jan. 21, an 87-79 win at Pontotoc in which Corinth never led and gave up a season-high point total. That came five weeks after Corinth beat Pontotoc by 39 at home.

“We’ve definitely got our hands full, but they got our attention that night,” Greene said. “I will say that.”

Belmont plans ahead

Belmont’s Lady Cardinals are another of North Mississippi’s state tournament staples, winners of the 2010 and 2012 Class 3A titles.

No matter what happened Thursday against Booneville in the final division game, Belmont coach Chris Higginbottom makes no bones about where his team’s focus is.

“Our goal is to finish the season strong and get a good seed, but definitely focus primarily on winning the district tournament,” Higginbottom said.

brandon.speck@journalinc.com