BY JOHN WILBERT
JACKSON – The Joneses were spectacular and the H.W. Byers High School girls reigned supreme after another impressive showing at the MHSAA Class 2A State Tournament.
Challenged by their coach, Amanda Jones scored a game-high 26 points and her cousin, Rachel, dished out 10 assists to lead the Lady Lions to their second consecutive state title with a 78-53 victory against Kemper County in Friday’s state championship game.
After watching Thursday night’s Class 1A girls championship game, Lady Lions head coach Jason Thompson told the Joneses that Friday will be their day “to set the stage up and do what you do.”
H.W. Byers looked hungry from the start, as Amanda Jones scored 16 points in Byers’ 24-1 first-quarter domination of Kemper County.
Point guard Rachel Jones said she wanted to “show no mercy” in Friday’s game. That attitude was on display throughout the game, as she didn’t crack a smile until it was time for her team to receive the championship trophy.
Byers head coach Jason Thompson was also not smiling until afterwards.
“I think I let the trials and tribulations that we had to endure this season kind of take the forefront of what we were trying to do: And that is to get here and win this ballgame,” Thompson said. “But now that we have won it, yes, I can smile, with an elated smile.”
And so can Kourtney Coleman, Symone Gorman and Alexis Hardaway, who each scored 15 points for a Byers team that will be heading to next week’s Grand Slam with a 34-4 record.
But there was some concern for the Lady Lions during Friday’s game. The Lady Wildcats – who didn’t score a field goal until 7:24 of the second quarter – outscored the Lady Lions 25-18 in the second period, and at one point cut the Byers’ lead to 14 (36-22).
A 42-26 halftime lead for the Lady Lions still was not a secure feeling for Thompson, who told his team at halftime not to be complacent in the second half.
“You don’t get up and get complacent and think all is over,” Thompson said. “You keep the charge on and keep going for another as much as possible.”
The Lady Wildcats made a brief charge at the beginning of the third quarter to pull within 12 at 46-34, but that was the closest they would get.
Alondra Jefferson led Kemper County (28-9) with 17 points, while teammate Kundriay Spencer added 11.
Post player RoTasha Windom – who scorched New Site for 24 points in Monday’s semifinal game – fouled out with 5:01 to play in the game after scoring just eight points.
“They got a quick team,” said Kemper County head coach Johnny Rush. “They burned us getting up and down the floor. We just didn’t seem to have the foot speed today. I thought we were quick, but they are quick.”
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