HED:Wave faces long, uphill battle in Jackson
By Gene Phelps
Tupelo’s road to the Class 5A state championship in boys basketball is filled with heavyweights.
The Golden Wave (32-1) begins its journey at 8 p.m. today at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, where it will face Biloxi (26-6).
Possible matchups against Jackson powers Provine and Lanier loom down the road.
“We couldn’t have picked a harder road,” Tupelo coach Lee Stratton said.
Tupelo enters the state tournament as the No. 2 team from the North Mississippi tournament. The Golden Wave lost its first game Saturday, falling 78-72 in overtime to Lanier in the North 5A championship.
“We felt like we had the opportunity to win north state,” Stratton said. “We didn’t get the job done. (The loss) puts us one more game from playing for the state championship.
“It made our road a lot harder, but not impossible.”
Biloxi’s lineup features 6-foot-7 power forward Ronald Dupree. The LSU signee is averaging 25.3 points and 10.6 rebounds a game to lead the Indians.
“He’s a great leaper and can shoot inside and outside,” Stratton said.
The Golden Wave will have trouble matching up with the talented Dupree. John Armstrong, a 6-foot senior and Prince Thompson, a 6-2 junior and Tupelo’s best leaper, will share the assignment of guarding him.
Dupree isn’t the only Indian who produces points. Lee Miles, a 6-3 exchange student from England, averages 21 points per game from his guard spot. Marquez Moultrie, a 6-2 guard, averages 13.5 points per game and is considered the team’s go-to guy in the clutch. He beat rival Gulfport twice this season with last-second jumpers.
“They are three great players,” Stratton said.
Tupelo counters with guards Dennis Buse and Ramon Gary, center Jaris Stubbs, and forwards Armstrong and Prince. Buse leads the team in scoring, averaging 18 points per game.
“There are some things we can do better on the defensive end,” Stratton said. “We’ve worked on those in practice.
“But, we’re playing well, so there will be no excuses,” he added. “I hope we play up to our potential and we’ll just see what happens.”
Lady Wave playing Friday
Tupelo’s Lady Wave (33-2), which opens play at 1 p.m. Friday against Meridian, enters the state tournament as the No. 3 team from the North.
Tupelo defeated Vicksburg 67-64 Saturday to earn the tournament berth. The Lady Wave lost its North Mississippi opener to Greenville, 58-49. A win over Meridian would set up another showdown with Greenville.
“If we can pull off a win (over Meridian), I think we can matchup with Greenville,” Tupelo coach Nanci Gray said. “We were down by three to them when Tan (White) fouled out.”
White, a sophomore and the team’s leading scorer (24 ppg), sat out the last six minutes against Greenville and missed a portion of the third period.
Gray said the key for her team during the state tournament will be to not lose focus.
“We can’t be satisfied with a trip to Jackson,” she said. “I feel we can compete with those teams down there.”
To be successful, Gray knows she must keep White out of foul trouble and have a big game from Sabrina Norwood. The 5-8 junior is averaging 15 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game.
The remainder of Tupelo’s starting lineup will have Joyce Pulliam at center, Tiffany Gray at guard and Keshia Hill at guard.