By Gene Phelps & John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Norris Ashley says to win a state championship you need “four or five players who really, really want to win.”
Ashley should know. He won his ninth state championship at Ingomar on Thursday when his Falcons defeated McAdams 72-60.
The 62-year-old coach figured he had the makings for a state title run when seniors Zach Carnell, Tyler Jarvis, Clay Kidd, Tyler McCay and Matt Purvis entered the gym.
The five players have had success since they joined the Future Falcons program in the fifth grade.
“We won the Five-County Tournament when we were in junior high,” said the 6-foot-7 Carnell, who scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win against McAdams.
Added Purvis, who scored 20 in the win, “We’ve played together eight years. We run that flex offense and man-to-man defense. We don’t surprise anybody.”
Ashley knew they had a shot to win state when they defeated favored Okolona and their star David Gardner the North half.
“We showed how tough we were mentally and physically,” the coach said. “We came together the same way today.”
Success on, off field
– Myrtle High senior Rhagen Hopper was presented the Cellular South Scholar Athlete Award before Thursday’s MHSAA Class 1A girls state championship game.
Although Hopper’s team suffered a 78-68 loss to McAdams in the title game, the 5-foot-6 guard has a high school athletic career to be proud of.
While at Myrtle, she has played basketball and softball, and participated in track and cross country.
“She excelled at every sport we have at Myrtle at one time in her career,” said Myrtle girls basketball coach Chris Greer.
Other Cellular South Scholar Athlete Award winners: were Matt Purvis of Ingomar, Brandon Kirk of Baldwyn and Bree Harris of New Site.
Tough ending for New Site
– New Site’s goal obviously was to win it all on this trip to the Big House.
However, the Lady Royals’ 77-73 loss in the finals to Newton was their second straight disappointing visit south. Last year, on the girls program’s first trip to the state tournament, they lost to Kemper County in the semifinals.
“This was tough,” junior guard Krystal Jackson said. “We’d only loss one time this season (to 3A state finalist Belmont).”
Head coach Byron Sparks was upset with the outcome, but not with the season.
“We had a great year,” he said. “Our goal was to win it, but it doesn’t take away from what these kids accomplished.”