By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The Tupelo Golden Wave is back in the championship game for the first time since 1990, but it’s been a lot longer than that since the Wave finished the job.
Tupelo’s last state championship came in 1968.
“1968 … that was the last year we won. That on the board in our locker room,” said fourth-year THS coach Grant Pate, who was a year old at the time. “These guys know. We always look at it, just look at it as a motivation to stay focused and hungry.”
More motivation to back to Jackson – and stay in Jackson – comes from the recent past.
The Wave lost 77-72 in overtime last season to Vicksburg in the North Mississippi playoffs, the game that would have put them here.
“That motivated me a lot, because the ball was in my hands, and I had a lot to do with that game,” said Dajon Reno, one of the Wave’s six seniors.
“It motivated us as a team too. Everybody was doubting us. Everybody thought all the talent left last year, but the talent’s still here.”
Reno was 7-for-9 from the free throw line and led Tupelo with 16 points.
Players cited a holiday trip to Missouri and a win against Sylvan Hills – and Kentucky signee Archie Goodwin – as a turning point in their confidence.
“For us to prove everybody wrong … it’s a great feeling,” said Chaz Jones, also a senior.
“I’m glad I made it with these guys I’ve played with my whole life, since eighth grade. It’s amazing.”
Said Pate: “We knew we had some good guys capable of doing something special. We talked about goal-setting, about being solution-oriented.
Our guys continued to believe and to believe in each other. We kept telling them, ‘You’ll end where nobody else thinks you’ll be.’ They’ve accomplished that.”