By Brandon Speck
It’s not coach-speak in Belmont.
When the 2014 Mississippi High School Activities Association basketball playoffs begin today, Lady Cardinals coach Chris Higginbottom says it really is a brand new season.
“The district tournament, that’s our primary goal,” Higginbottom said. “When you go into it, you can lay records aside.”
Those tournaments begin tonight with 1-1A and run through Friday. After that, the North tournaments will decide the two teams from each class going to Jackson.
No. 9 Belmont ends the old season with a 16-9 mark, nine quality losses. It seems to be peaking at the right time, despite a one-senior team that lost eighth grade starting forward Claire Maroon to a torn ACL. Higginbottom credited Maroon’s sacrifice through the pain and says she did a good job playing in November and December, but it got worse and led to January surgery.
Belmont, which won Class 3A titles in 2010 and 2012, knows the road to get there. The Lady Cardinals finished second in Division 1-3A and get a bye into the North tournament, but that success means this team also knows what looking past the division tournament means.
“If you lose, you know it’s over,” said sophomore guard Chloe Watson.
That road in the division tournament involves teams already familiar with one another.
Also in 1-3A, Booneville’s boys’ win Thursday at Belmont may look like it put the three-time tournament team in a good position Tuesday against Mooreville, a team the Blue Devils beat by 26. That’s how it looks on paper only, coach Michael Smith said.
“I think from the top to the bottom, everybody’s capable of beating anybody probably on a given night, depending on who gets hot,” Smith said. “I think any of us could be gone the first night. Our division is as wide open as it’s been in a long time.”