Girls, girls, girls

JACKSON – It’s been a “girls, girls, girls … and even more girls” basketball postseason for Northeast Mississippi.
Last week, seven area teams traveled here to the Big House: Myrtle (1A), H.W. Byers (2A), Alcorn Central and Aberdeen (3A), Itawamba AHS and New Albany (4A), and Tupelo (5A).
This week, two more teams – New Site (2A) and Houston (3A) – debut as top-seeded teams in their respective state tournaments.
“We have a lot of strong, talented girls teams in the North,” said Alcorn Central coach Charlette Foster, whose Lady Bears saw their season end Wednesday with a 75-66 loss to defending 3A state champion Southeast Lauderdale. “Everybody’s stepping up their programs. I know we’ve played a lot of physical games.”
Central, a 29-game winner with a senior-dominated lineup, was no pushover in its loss and trailed by only one point with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining.
Myrtle lost 57-54 in the semifinals to pre-tournament favorite, McAdams, while Tupelo’s season ended with a first-round loss to Hattiesburg, 59-51 in overtime. New Albany, with three sophomores and an eighth-grader in its lineup, also stumbled in its opener, dropping a 49-38 decision to Forest Hill.
IAHS won its tournament opener against Mendenhall, 65-62, and plays in Tuesday’s semifinals against Northeast Lauderdale.
Possible all-NEMiss finals
Defending state champion H.W. Byers moved into the 2A title game, scheduled for Friday, and could defend its championship against Division 1 rival New Site.
Of course, the Lady Royals have to beat Kemper County in today’s semifinals for the matchup to happen.
New Site defeated Byers, 65-60, to win the North state championship at New Site. However, the Lady Lions won the two previous meetings, including the Division 1 title game at East Union.
“I think it would be an honor to have two North teams battle it out,” Byers coach Jason Thompson said.
Also, he did mention something about … “payback.”
If Division 2 rivals Houston and Aberdeen can win semifinal games, they would meet in Friday’s 3A finals.
Houston, playing the North Mississippi tournament at home, defeated the Lady Bulldogs, 49-46, in the title game.
In the semifinals, the Lady Hilltoppers play defending state champion Southeast Lauderdale, while Aberdeen tackles tournament favorite Raymond.
Plenty of young guns
NEMiss should continue to see success from its girls programs for years to come because of all the good young players.
One young star with loads of potential is 5-11 freshman post player Aspriona Gilbert of Myrtle. The youngster, nicknamed “Baby Shaq,” scored 36 points in the Hawks’ tournament opener against Thomastown.
A key sixth man for IAHS has been freshman Janisha Adams. The Indians’ point guard is sophomore Ally McDonald.
At New Site, the Royals turned to sophomore Krystal Jackson to shoulder the scoring load when junior Bree Harris was injured.
And finally, there’s 5-11 New Albany eighth-grader Jazmine Spears, who averaged 18 points and 16 rebounds per game.
“She does things you can’t teach,” Lady Bulldogs coach John Stroud said, then smiled. “The future is bright for us with three sophomores and an eighth-grader.”
Gene Phelps (gene.phelps@djournal.com) covers high school sports for the Daily Journal.

Gene Phelps