Week 2 of the MHSAA Basketball State Tournament begins Monday afternoon. Seven NeMiss teams – four boys, three girls – remain in the hunt for a state title and a berth in the Grand Slam. Here’s why each can win, plus what they must guard against.
Aberdeen (3A): The Bulldogs are deep, rotating up to 15 players in and out like hockey lines. Ripley coach Harvey Childers: “It’s hard to know who you’re guarding. They’ll run them in there so much, if you’re playing man defense, you better be paying attention.” But Aberdeen will have to account for Pass Christian’s springy 6-foot-4 Willis Brownlee, and that means 6-6 Fred Griffin will have to stay more rooted to the low post, or someone more athletic will have to mark Brownlee.
East Webster (1A): This team was a late bloomer, and it has two top-notch scorers – and leapers – in Jonathan Banks and Mitchell McCurry. The question is, can anyone else can step up if one of those two is shut down by Myrtle?
Myrtle (1A): The red-hot Hawks can score from anywhere on the floor, whether it’s Grant Goolsby from deep, J.J. Jordan on the drive or Jimel Judon under the basket. But there have been times when one or more of these guys has gone mysteriously cold.
Starkville (5A): We saw what Latavious Williams is capable of with the second half (19 points) he had against Wingfield. But I was more impressed with Starkville’s guard play, which was more than serviceable. But can the Jackets handle Scottie Haralson, who scored 23 in Provine’s 65-49 North half semifinal win against them?
Alcorn Central (3A): There isn’t one standout player on Alcorn Central, just a bunch of really good players who work well together. One of the most balanced squads you’ll find, with decent size to boot. However, the Lady Golden Bears have had some bad stretches, and bad losses, that have confounded coach Charlette Foster.
H.W. Byers (2A): When Rachel Jones came back on the court for the second half of Saturday’s semifinal game against Kemper County, and her team down 10, I looked at her face and could sense something big was about to happen. It did, as she scored eight points during an 11-0 run that propelled the Lady Lions to victory. She’s a playmaker who knows how to run the show. Forward Simone Ryan is great, too, but her Achilles’ heel all year has been foul trouble, as it was Saturday.
Houlka (1A): Houlka has a budding star in sophomore center Candiace McIntosh, and then a bunch of good role players. I’m afraid that won’t be enough against April Sykes and East Oktibbeha.