GENE PHELPS: Myrtle girls get the party started this morning

By NEMS Daily Journal

Take a look at this impressive lineup of Northeast Mississippi girls high school basketball teams headed to Jackson for the MHSAA state tournament, which is scheduled to tip off this morning.
- Class 4A New Albany, the state’s No. 1-ranked team in any classification, has a 31-0 record.
- Also in 4A, Lafayette has compiled a 29-2 record with both of its losses coming to New Albany … one of those in double overtime in the North state finals.
- In Class 3A you’ve got Belmont, which is 31-1 with its lone loss to Class 2A power New Site.
- In Class 2A you’ve New Site, now 30-1, with its lone loss coming against, yes, Belmont.
That’s 121 victories and four losses.
“This might be one of the best years ever in Northeast Mississippi girls basketball,” Myrtle coach Chris Greer said.
Greer’s Lady Hawks, who play West Lincoln at 9 a.m. today in the 1A state semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, sees his team in that impressive mix, too, despite its 20-15 record.
Myrtle may be the hottest team headed to the Big House. The Lady Hawks’ 58-50 victory Monday against last year’s 2A state champ, H.W. Byers, in the North championship game was the team’s sixth victory in seven games.
Myrtle, its lineup saddled by injuries early on, came into the postseason with a 14-14 record.
“It’s been an interesting season,” Greer said. “It started out as the worst I’ve ever had. Now, it’s one of my most successful.”
The North state championship was Myrtle’s first in girls hoops.
“I never really got discouraged or stressed out,” Greer said. “I was hoping the winning would catch on.”
Now, just two victories from bringing a gold ball back home to Union County, the Lady Hawks are finally clicking at all positions.
Greer’s big gun, 6-foot-3 sophomore post player Aspriona Gilbert, started the season on the bench after undergoing surgery on her leg for a micro fracture. She averages 20.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
“She’s been 100 percent the last 10 games,” Greer said. “People have to guard her with two, maybe three, people.”

Game-changer
In the backcourt, sophomore point guard Halle Knowles is a difference maker. She averages 9.4 points, but does so much more.
“When she gets going, she doesn’t have to score,” Greer said. “She’s just as important to us on defense as offense. We’ve stressed to her all year about reaching her potential. She’s finally doing that.”
Guards Rhagen Hopper, Keanna Cox and Jenna Jordan have all contributed.
“We had the injuries at the first of the year with Aspriona and Keanna,” Greer said. “We played a tough schedule … Aberdeen, Ripley, Byers, New Albany.
“We’ve sort of been under the radar this season, but it’s been fun.”

Gene Phelps (gene.phelpsdjournal.com) covers high schools for the Daily Journal.