HED:Another strong year expected in Class 1A
By D.E. Wheeler
Mention high school basketball to a supporter of a Class 1A school in Northeast Mississippi and watch the blood start pumping pretty fast.
Mention the 1996-97 boys basketball season to the same 1A fan and see if they do not eventually wonder which area school will win the state championship, or marvel at the exploits of Myrtle’s LaKendrick Bailey.
As usual, Class 1A ball in Northeast Mississippi will be hotly contested as 19 area schools try to replace the 20th – Biggersville – as the state champion.
“I think we’ll be fairly competitive again,” said Biggersville coach Jacky Rowsey of his team’s chance of repeating this season. “We lost two key players, but we had some good kids on the bench.
“They know what it takes to get there, and I hope we can get back.”
Biggersville gets 12 of its 14 players back from the 26-9 team of a year ago. But as with many small school coaches, Rowsey has to wait until football season is over before getting all his players on the court at the same time.
Five players should play a key role in defense of the 1A crown, starting with 6-0 senior Scott Thompson, who led Biggersville with 18 points per game last season. Rowsey will also have 5-10 junior jumper Brandon Patterson, 6-1 junior Mark Lowery, 6-7 senior Daun Barnett and 6-2 senior Shawn Patterson, the first man off the bench last season.
But making the playoffs out of Division 1-1A will be no easy matter for Biggersville. According to Rowsey, Thrasher might be the team to beat in the division with 6-5 Lester Young and point guard Justin Windham.
“Yes, Thrasher is fairly tough,” said Wheeler coach Todd Swinney, who has his own scoring threat in 5-7 junior Roy Lee Lowery, and a deep bench. Jumpertown and possibly Pine Grove are two other schools that could make Division 1 exciting.
Excitement in Division 2-1A will usually start with Bailey, the Myrtle senior who was the 1994-95 Daily Journal Player-of-the-Year.
“He’s just competitive and plays to win,” said Myrtle coach Elvis Thomas of Bailey. “Obviously he scores a lot, but he shoots a high percentage.
“He’s a pretty complete player offensively. He can shoot, he can drive, and he can post up.”
Bailey has good balance on the Myrtle squad to help it toward the playoffs with the likes of 5-9 senior guard Lee Berry, 6-5 center Felix Berry, and 6-1 junior Brandon Kirk.
In the Division 2 playoff chase, Myrtle will be joined by an athletic Falkner squad, and a well-coached Ingomar team that features senior scorer Anthony Jones.
Over in Division 3-1A, Smithville and West Clay will try to survive challenges from a young and improving Houlka team, as well as Hamilton, Vardaman and East Webster.
“Our division is as equally balanced as any 1A division,” Smithville coach Jason McKay said. “Nobody in our division lost anybody of significance, and no team is superior to another.”