By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
RIPLEY – Katie Bates is a mom to her Ripley players, but she’s also a mother to her newborn son, Bo.
Bates’ Lady Tigers pulled together during her absence late in the season while Bo was hospitalized in Memphis. The team effort during a critical time is one of the reasons why Ripley is headed to Jackson for a fourth consecutive season.
The Lady Tigers (30-4) play Southeast Lauderdale (30-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the MHSAA Class 3A state tournament semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“He was my first priority, but the girls are like my family, too,” Bates said. “It could have fallen apart, but they stepped up and won some big games while I was out.”
Bo Bates is doing a lot better and Katie Bates has returned to the sidelines. Last week, her team defeated Mooreville, Ruleville and Charleston to capture the North 3A championship.
The Lady Tigers, who lost in the state title game to rival Belmont last year, have collected some huge victories this season on their return march to the Big House. None was probably bigger than their Jan. 12 win against top-ranked Class 6A Southaven, 48-45, in the Hickory Flat Invitational.
“That win proved to us we can play with anybody in the state,” Bates said. “It proved to the girls how good they can be.”
Ripley’s regular season also included wins against Tupelo and state tournament teams New Site and North Pontotoc.
Chills stands out
Senior guard Jayla Chills – a preseason all-state selection – averages 17.8 points per game, but it’s not only her offensive game that stands out.
“Her passing is underrated,” Bates said. “She sees the floor well and finds the open person in transition. She’s also a good defensive player.
“Jayla can carry us, but we don’t try to run everything through her.”
Joining Chills at guard are Zaida Cox, Madison Moore and sixth man Matavia Cox. Moore is the point guard and one of the top defenders.
Inside, the Lady Tigers look to senior Daisha Colom and sophomore Jada Rich. The two combined are averaging 21.5 points and 12 rebounds per game.