By Gene Phelps
PONTOTOC – Jalen Brim knew Corinth and Greenwood were the favorites to win the Class 4A North Mississippi championship.
“Nobody wanted us to win it,” said Shannon’s senior guard. “People were tweeting yesterday that Shannon didn’t deserve to win.
“We put our pride to the side and played ball.”
A simple strategy. One Shannon knows very well – tight man-to-man defense and patient motion offense.
The Red Raiders (25-7), coached by Cedric Brim, Jalen’s dad, won four straight tournament games this past week, capping their amazing run Saturday night with a 52-47 victory against another underdog, Byhalia, in the North title game at Pontotoc High.
The Red Raiders, making their first trip to the state tournament since 1995, will play South No. 2 – Raymond or McComb – at 8 p.m. March 11 in the state semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Shooting guard Xzavier Jones connected on five 3-pointers and scored 21 points to pace the Red Raiders. His 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining gave Shannon the lead for keeps – 49-47.
“I knew we need some points,” Jones said. “I knew I needed to step up.”
Shannon padded its lead with three free throws by Rocquis Coleman down the stretch.
Byhalia had taken the lead moments before on a 3-point play by Avion Graham. The Indians came up empty on their next five trips.
Cedric Brim praised the shooting effort of his senior.
“On that last 3, (Coleman) found him open and (Jones) had a good look,” he said. “Any time he shoots it’s a plus for us. We work to get him open and get him the ball.”
Jones hit four of his 3-pointers in the first half to give Shannon a 29-20 halftime lead.
“Our defense was big in the first half, but that’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Brim said. “Offensively, we moved the ball well against their zone and hit shots. We were very patient on the offensive end.”
Byhalia (22-8) put together a 14-3 run in the third quarter to go ahead 37-34. The Red Raiders recovered an exited the quarter with a 43-41 lead on a layup by Brice Ford.