By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
Tupelo Lady Wave basketball coach Matt Justice watched the Class 6A girls championship game from the comfort of his home last week.
He wasn’t comfortable, though.
“The best in the state were playing in Jackson last week, and we were just a few games from being there as well,” Justice said. “It was hard to watch.”
All was not lost for Justice, who welcomed the birth of his third child during the state tourney. But he still feels the Lady Wave should have been in Jackson.
Tupelo ended the 2013-14 effort with a 26-3 mark, winning the Division 2-6A regular season and tournament. The Lady Wave were also No. 1 in the last Daily Journal area rankings, and No. 2 in the Clarion Ledger Super 10.
“It was encouraging watching some of the teams we played make it down there,” said Justice, whose Lady Wave defeated tournament teams Booneville, Belmont, Olive Branch, and Scott Central. “But it definitely motivates me for next year.”
The veteran Lady Wave should be motivated, only losing one senior, though that player is point guard Bre Jernigan. That motivation could propel Tupelo into one of the preseason top teams in Mississippi heading into the 2014-15 season.
Expected to slide into the primary ball-handling role will be Jaleigha Polk, who led the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game. Justice will also return two of the best small forwards in the area in Braxton Thomas (10.1 ppg) and Marqueesha Hoskins (9.6 ppg), as well as key post player Asia Partlow (7.0 ppg).
Two other key returnees will be current freshman Alayjah Sherer (7.7 ppg) and junior Kaleigha Dandridge, who are certain to have increased roles.
“We’ve got an eight-week plan starting this week, getting ready for the summer,” Justice said. “We’ve got some really good players coming back.
“We will not be as fast, but we’ll be stronger and bigger. Our goal is to have the toughest schedule in the state of Mississippi.”