By Gene Phelps
NEW SITE – New Site’s loyal girls basketball fans plan their vacation time around the state tournament these days.
The Lady Royals’ job is to get there.
“We set our goals high,” said coach Byron Sparks, who has compiled a 193-46 record with a 2012 Class 2A state championship during his first seven seasons at the Prentiss County school. “Our goal remains the same, not just get to the championship game, but win it. Anything less doesn’t seem like it’s good enough.”
New Site (31-5 last year) reached the title game last season only to see Scott Central, powered by the 3-point shooting of Victoria Vivians, rally for a victory.
Vivians, a recent Mississippi State signee, is back for her senior season.
New Site has plenty of experience back, including 2012-13 Daily Journal All-Area team selections Grace Elliott and Cristin Pharr, to make another title game run.
Sparks, however, isn’t thinking about a rematch against Vivians. He has to deal with defending 1A state champion H.W. Byers, now a 2A program. The two powers would collide in the North Mississippi tournament’s semifinals, an elimination game, if they win their respective divisions and reach that point.
“Figuring out a game plan for (Vivians) would be a good problem to have,” he said. “We’ll know we’re in the state tournament.”
Elliott, a 6-foot-1 junior, gives the Royals a solid inside-outside scoring threat. She averaged 16 points a game the final month of last season.
“She’s made the transition to becoming more of a scoring option,” Sparks said. “Instead of feeding off other players, she needs to become a go-to player.”
Pharr, a 5-9 senior forward, provides a steady inside presence in the paint and on the boards.
Shelby Stricklen, a 5-10 senior wing, can shoot from the perimeter and help with muscle inside.
Marlee Taylor and Faith Mitchell will handle the guard duties along with transfer Allie Moreland.
“We’re experienced,” Sparks said. “All of these kids know what it’s all about. They just want to get it accomplished.”