Some might say that inferior talent level is why small-school teams and large-school teams are often equals on the basketball court in Northeast Mississippi. Whatever. But there is still something special about basketball in the Hill Country. I saw that firsthand this weekend at the Union County Tournament.
Myrtle, a Class 1A school, swept the county titles, beating 4A New Albany in both games. The Lady Hawks had a surprisingly easy time of it, winning 87-41. As the second quarter wound down, Myrtle coach Chris Greer kept reminding his players, “It’s not over yet!” I’m not sure even he believed that.
Then we had an instant classic in the boys final. The teams were never separated by more than six points, and J.J. Jordan‘s eight-footer at the buzzer was the difference in the Hawks’ 62-60 win on New Albany’s court.
It was refreshing to see the pure joy on the faces of Jordan and his teammates, and the picture of agony on the New Albany side. Senior Tookie Bowling, who gave New Albany the title last season with a last-second shot against Myrtle, pulled his shirt up to his face and acted as if he’d just lost in the state championship game. How many regular season tournaments can extract such emotion from a young man’s heart?
In reality, the size of these respective schools didn’t mean a thing. When it comes to NeMiss basketball, it rarely does. I had someone tell me the other day that the quality of basketball around here isn’t what it used to be. Maybe so, but it couldn’t have been any more fun to watch this weekend.