By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Byron Sparks and his New Site Lady Royals watched Newton wins its state tournament semifinal against Broad Street.
The game, played Saturday, should have come with a warning label. Newton crushed the Delta club 99-36.
“They’re quick; they push the ball,” Sparks said. “They press full-court and try to wear you down.
“They’re similar to H.W. Byers last year. They can run the floor and they’re athletic. They’re deeper at guard than Byers.”
And they’re standing between New Site and a state championship.
The Lady Royals (31-1) play Newton (30-3) at 7 p.m. today in the MHSAA Class 2A state tournament championship game at the Mississippi Coliseum.
New Site is one of four Northeast Mississippi girls programs playing today and Friday for state titles.
In today’s opener at 1 p.m., Myrtle (21-15) needs just one more victory in its grand postseason run to take a gold ball back to Union County.
The Lady Hawks, who’ve won seven of their last eight, play favored McAdams (26-2) in the 1A championship.
Later, the Lady Royals will try to wrap up a once-beaten season with a gold ball of their own.
Two of Newton’s guards – Tineshia Evans and Tramekia Walker – are averaging 14 points each while post player Ashtin McNichols is averaging 14 points and 7.5 rebounds.
New Site (31-1), bidding to win the girls program’s first state championship, isn’t afraid. The Lady Royals pounded Broad Street by 36 points in the North half finals.
Sparks says his club, whose only loss is to 3A finalist Belmont, heads into the championship prepared and confident.
“They believe in themselves,” he said. “They feel good about it.”
New Site’s lineup includes one of the state’s top junior guard/forwards in Krystal Jackson, who is averaging 18.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
The Lady Royals count on her to draw double teams, bring the ball down court in press situations, rebound and score.
Bree Harris, a senior guard, gives New Site a perimeter threat. She’s averaged 15.9 points per game. Inside, Darrah Pharr is a finesse player who can score and rebound.
Two of the keys against Newton’s pressure, Sparks says, is to limit turnovers and play solid transition defense.
“We can’t give them a lot of easy layups,” he said.
The job of not turning the ball over against Newton’s pressure will fall to guards Carleigh King, Cara Clark and Jackson. Harris can also help if needed.
“We’ve played with four guards and a post all year,” Sparks said. “I’d be disappointed if we can’t handle the pressure.”
In Friday’s action, Belmont (32-1) battles Ripley (23-9) in an all-area matchup at 1 p.m. in the 3A finals. The two teams played for the North crown with the Lady Cardinals winning 57-54 on their home floor in Belmont.
This will be the fifth meeting between the Division 1-3A rivals. Belmont has won the previous four.
In the 7 p.m. 4A state championship game, top-ranked New Albany (32-0) plays former No. 1 Raymond (29-1) and its star guard Valencia McFarland, the Ole Miss signee.
John Stroud’s Lady Bulldogs are led by 5-foot-11 freshman forward Jazmine Spears.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org