By Brandon Speck
FULTON – The safe money was on Pontotoc and as the year went on, Shannon. Then first-year Itawamba AHS girls coach Devin Hill went all Bob the Builder with the Lady Indians.
“This was supposed to be a rebuilding year,” Hill said. “We lost six seniors, four starters. We’re excited to be where we are.”
Excited to be at Mississippi Coliseum for Tuesday’s Class 4A state semifinal against Raymond (27-6), but not just excited to stop here.
Itawamba is looking for its first state championship since 1952. Bay High and Gentry play in the other semifinal.
“Bay High is the defending state champion, a really good basketball team and Raymond has been ranked in 4A all year,” Hill said. “So two good teams, but I feel like the North is going to be represented by two pretty good teams, too.”
All-star Kim Mallory was the lone true returning starter in Fulton. Jamyia Hill started some. There are young contributions from sophomores Constance Dunn and Tori Mallory and junior Aniyah Marshall.
Raymond is led by guard Annessia Durham and forward Tamara Kidd.
IAHS (27-8) was the last team standing in the North 4A Tournament that featured division opponents Pontotoc and Shannon and beat Gentry in the finals to win the North.
“Our division helped us, because the top three teams in our division are just tough, tough, tough,” Hill said.
Hill talked after his team’s Thursday night win against Yazoo County about the team’s public goals of closing the season in Jackson, comparing it to a road trip that made them better, stops at Belmont, Red Bay, (Ala.), Nettleton, Ripley and New Site included.
“From day one when we were running hills, lifting weights, stuff that they were unfamiliar with, I told them, ‘If you just stick with the process, you’ll go to state and state will be far better than what you’re feeling now.’” Hill said.