By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Grant Pate says Tupelo’s first trip to the state tournament since 1999 is a tribute not only to this year’s team, but to all the players he’s coached the last four years.
The Golden Wave, which won its first North Mississippi tournament championship since 1988 when it defeated Jim Hill 43-42 Saturday, returns to Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum Feb. 29 for a state Class 6A semifinals game against Biloxi.
“It’s taken us four years,” Pate said Friday, moments after his team’s 67-44 North semifinal win against Clinton clinched the Golden Wave’s Jackson trip. “We’ve really worked hard.We can’t be more thankful for these kids who’ve put in the work, the effort and the dedication.
“All the kids who’ve been in the program have contributed, in a way, to what this year’s team is doing.”
Pate, a former Ole Miss assistant coach, took over the reins at THS when David Ball resigned following the 2007-08 season. Pate had served as an assistant that season on the Wave staff.
Tupelo just missed qualifying for the state tournament last year, losing to Vicksburg in the North semifinals in Vicksburg. That loss was used as motivation for this season’s team.
“We reflected on last year and used it as a motivation,” Pate said. “We’ve worked hard and set goals … and this was one of our goals.”
Tupelo was led in the North half by senior guards Rashon Coleman and Dajon Reno, and senior forward Josh Hamilton. Coleman scored 20 points against Clinton while Reno sank a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left to beat Jim Hill, Hamilton had a 10-point, 14-rebound effort against Clinton.
Tupelo’s game against Biloxi is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Jim Hill plays South champion Gulfport in the other semifinal scheduled for later that day.
The 6A state championship game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. March 3.
“It took us a while to reach this point,” Pate said. “This team went through some bumps and bruises earlier.
They just stayed with it and became closer and closer as a team.
They’ve become a good unit.
“This is a tribute to our guys and their commitment.”