By Gene Phelps | NEMS Daily Journal
MOUNT PLEASANT – Monday night’s battle between girls high school basketball heavyweights H.W. Byers and Coahoma County didn’t make it past the first round.
Byers, the state’s top-ranked 1A team and the Daily Journal’s No. 1-ranked club, decked Coahoma, the state’s No. 4-ranked 2A school, with a 21-9 first quarter and cruised to a 72-43 decision.
Freshman guard Abria Gulledge powered Byers (9-3) with 20 points, 14 in the first half. Her buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter gave the Lady Lions their 12-point advantage.
“I challenged her tonight to step her game up,” Byers coach Jason Thompson said. “I want her to be aggressive on both ends of the floor. She can do so many things.”
Gulledge’s first cousin, Kyra, Byers’ 6-foot-2 senior center and Furman signee, added 13 points and 15 rebounds before sitting down midway in the third quarter with four fouls. The Lions were up 24 points when she exited.
Gulledge had a triple-double last week against Byhalia.
Coahoma “couldn’t handle her inside,” Thompson said. “She could have had a triple-double tonight.”
The Lady Lions suffered a huge blow early in the fourth quarter when senior guard Alexis Hardaway, an Austin Peay signee, injured her right knee when she was fouled hard on a layup attempt. She scored 12 points before the injury.
‘She’s a key’
Hardaway, who is averaging 11.1 points per game this season, suffered a torn ligament (ACL) in the same knee two years ago.
“I’m praying that it’s not all that bad,” Thompson said. “She didn’t feel comfortable walking on it. She’s going to get it checked.
“She’s a key to what we do and how we get things done, but this doesn’t end our season. We’ve won without her before.”
Coahoma County (12-2) cut Byers’ lead to 24-20 early in the second quarter, but the Lions responded with a 16-2 run to take a 40-22 halftime lead.
Flexicia Evans led the visitors with 15 points.