By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – New Site made its game-breaking first-half run on Thursday afternoon with star guard Morgan Pearson on the bench in foul trouble.
The deep Lady Royals didn’t skip a beat.
New Site, behind the scoring of Shelby Stricklen and Christy Clark, outscored Walnut 23-6 in the second quarter on their way to a 56-44 victory on Thursday in the MHSAA Class 2A State Tournament championship game.
“We’re not a one-player team,” said New Site coach Byron Sparks, whose team celebrated the program’s first state girls title. “We play about eight kids and they’re all capable of contributing.”
Stricklen, a sophomore who scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, was named the game’s MVP. Clark, a junior, added 16 points.
“I wanted to play hard,” said Stricklen, who was 7 of 10 from the field. “I didn’t want to lose again.”
New Site (30-4) lost to Scott Central in last year’s state championship game.
“I told Shelby all week in practice that she could have a good game,” Sparks said. “I told her they were going to show so much attention to Morgan and Christy that I felt like she’d be the one who was one-on-one.
“I said, ‘We’re going to get you the ball.’ ”
Pearson, a senior, closed out her career with an 11-point effort after going just 3 of 12 from the field.
“It doesn’t matter, as long we win,” Pearson said, then smiled. “My teammates stepped it up today, especially Shelby.”
New Site’s defensive pressure led to its game-changing run in the second quarter. Walnut had prepared for the Lady Royals’ scheme all week.
The Lady Wildcats had 19 turnovers in the first half.
“That second quarter killed us,” Walnut coach Larry Tribble said. “We understood that trap pretty well. We just didn’t execute.”
Walnut (26-9) was led by Becky Robinson with 13 points. Presley Pulse and Wynisha Adams added nine points apiece.
New Site defeated Walnut 80-36 in the North state championship game, but Sparks wasn’t concerned about his team overlooking the Tippah County team.
“I said it’s a different game; they understood that,” he said. “They knew they had to come play. It was the state championship game. We knew Walnut was going to come to play.
“We were looking forward, not behind.”