Locals lead North’s charge

basketball_icon_greenBy Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

JACKSON – Northeast Mississippi girls basketball may have had its finest hour Friday night.

The region’s eight players scored 80 of the North’s points in its 95-73 victory against the South in the 50th annual Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Basketball Game at the Jackson State University’s Assembly and Athletics Center.

Tupelo guard Jaleigha Polk scored 17 points and was named the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player. The Lady Wave senior-to-be connected on 6-of-7 from the field, including 3-of-3 on 3-pointers.

“I got off to a good start, but I might have got a little too laid back,” Polk said, referring to her four first-half fouls. “I may have tried to do too much on defense.

“I played smarter in the second half.”

Tupelo coach Matt Justice saw from Polk what he’s witnessed her entire career.

“She loves playing the game,” he said. “She’s a special player with offensive attributes that can get a crowd going.

“She’s one of those players who just wants to win. She’s not in it for the honor and the glory.”

H.W. Byers’ Abria Gulledge, who led the Lady Lions to a Class 2A title, led the North with 20 points.

Pontotoc’s Marlee Hatcher added 12 points while New Site’s Grace Elliott scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.

Elliott, who won the girls’ pregame dunk contest on an eight-foot goal, was awarded the game’s Michael Crouther Memorial Sportsmanship Award.

“This was an awesome experience … playing with all these good girls,” Elliott said.

Also from Northeast Mississippi, East Webster’s Quantesha Patterson scored eight points, Belmont’s Katelyn Nunley six and Ripley’s Zaida Cox five.

The South was led by Harrison Central’s Jazzmun Holmes, who scored 17 points.

The South’s Octavia Barnes of Hinds AHS was named the game’s Defensive MVP after scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Two layups, one apiece from Gulledge and Cox, along with an assist by Hatcher on a Patterson layup, helped give the North its 40-37 halftime lead.

The North broke the game open with an 18-4 run to take a 66-52 lead.

Gulledge connected on a 3-pointer while Hatcher scored on a jumper and a baseline drive for a layup in the spurt.

“Rebounding was the difference for us in the second half,” Elliott said. “We all rebounded a lot better. We finished more.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com