By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – H.W. Byers used a 12-point win over Bogue Chitto as a stepping stone to the Class 1A state championship last season.
Saturday afternoon at the Mississippi Coliseum, in a rematch of their 2011 State Tournament semifinal, the Lady Lions stepped on their South Mississippi foe, 75-39, on their way to the championship game.
“Byers is a really good athletic team,” said Bogue Chitto coach Christi Terrell, who lost seven key players off her 2011 team. “We’re a totally different team.
“We’re a team building for the future going against the best team in the state in 1A.”
Byers (28-4) will play Coldwater, a team it defeated in last week’s North state finals, at 1 p.m. Friday in the state championship game.
The Lady Lions, who returned their entire lineup except for one player, were led by 6-foot-2 center Kyra Gulledge, who recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. She also had four steals and blocked a shot.
“My height is a big advantage,” said Gulledge, a Furman signee. “I just do what I have to do.”
Alexis Hardaway, a senior guard, added 16 points while Justice Martin scored 10 for the Lady Lions, who shot 51 percent from the field.
Hardaway said despite the lopsided outcome, a team and its players cannot afford to lose focus.
“I know I’ve got to keep pushing and not let up,” said the Austin Peay signee. “It’s the way we’re taught. You’ve got to give it your all.”
Bogue Chitto (20-14) was led Adrienne Wallace with 16 points and Earineshia Dillion with 10.
The Lady Lions, who are seeking their fourth championship in five years, roared to a 31-5 lead in the first quarter. At the half, it was 46-13.
“I saw them on film and it kind of gave me an idea that if we played like we’re capable of playing, we’d be in the position we’re in,” Byers coach Jason Thompson said.
“We’re glad to still be playing. This is where we strive to be.”