Red Raiders sailing to Jackson for first time since 1995

basketball_icon_greenBy Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – Cedric Brim appeared three times as a player in the state tournament, but he had never been to the Big House as a coach.

That all changed Friday.

Brim’s Shannon Red Raiders punched their ticket to Jackson – for the first time since 1995 – with a 54-39 victory against Leake Central in the semifinals of the MHSAA Class 4A North Mississippi Tournament at Pontotoc High.

“This is big for Shannon,” Brim said, then smiled. “I’m proud of these guys for fighting and executing. We’ve worked hard all year for this.”

Shannon’s task isn’t finished. The Red Raiders (24-7) play Byhalia at 7 p.m. today in the championship game.

Byhalia reached the finals with a 63-60 upset win in overtime against favored Greenwood, the team that eliminated Corinth in a three-overtime quarterfinal on Thursday.

Shannon’s players entered the dressing room chanting, “We’re going to the ’ship, we’re going to the ’ship,” referring to tonight’s title game.

“We wanted to get this one out of the way,” Brim said. “Now, we can get ready for Byhalia.”

The Red Raiders used their man-to-man defense to create some scoring opportunities inside and on the perimeter in the first half.

Xzavier Jones connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to give Shannon a 14-6 lead. Rocquis Coleman, who led his team with 21 points, connected on two 3-pointers in the second quarter as the Red Raiders built a 32-14 halftime lead.

“We wanted to come out full-speed and get a lot of transition baskets,” Coleman said. “We hit some big shots.”

Leake Central, behind the play of Ravion Henry, cut Shannon’s lead to 40-28 in the third quarter. He finished with a team-high 20 points.

In the fourth quarter, Shannon sank nine free throws down the stretch to ice the win.

“We settled down and attack the goal,” Brim said. “Then we were able to make some free throws.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com