By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
New Site was a good basketball team without Grace Elliott, but the Lady Royals are definitely a state championship contender with her in the lineup.
Elliott, who missed the season’s first 12 games recovering from a summer softball injury, has averaged 12.2 points per game since her Dec. 18 return to the court.
“She missed five months,” New Site coach Byron Sparks said. “She couldn’t run, she couldn’t lift weights. All she could so was stand and shoot.
“That set her development back, and the team’s, too.”
on the rise
The 6-foot sophomore scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Saturday’s Class 2A North Mississippi tournament championship game win against Potts Camp.
The Lady Royals’ fifth consecutive North title was also their 19th straight win this season.
New Site (30-4), the defending state champion, plays Amite County at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals of the state tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Senior guard Christy Clark, a Daily Journal All-Area selection in 2012, has led the team. She’s averaged 13.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
But, it’s the presence of Elliott that has bolstered the team’s overall strength.
“We were counting on Grace a lot,” Sparks said. “We learned to play without her, which was good for the kids. She definitely makes a difference in our team.”
Elliott can play any position on the floor, Sparks noted. Against Potts Camp, she was an offensive force inside, scoring on putbacks and layups. She did connect on a 3-point shot late in the first half to give the Royals their halftime lead in their 65-55 win against Potts Camp.
“Coach Sparks told us we had to go out and work for it, that the game (against Potts Camp) was going to be physical,” Elliott said.
New Site’s tough schedule has also prepared it for the playoffs. The team’s losses have been to Class 3A finalist Ripley, 6A schools Gulfport and Ocean Springs, and state private school champion Starkville Academy.
Joining Elliott and Clark in the lineup are Addison Lucas, Cristin Pharr, Shelby Stricklen and Marlee Taylor.
Pharr averages 13.2 points while Stricklen leads in rebounding with 6.6 per game.