Category Archives: Basketball

Grand Slam: A New Legacy

If you want to find something good in the Grand Slam’s leaving Tupelo – as I report in the Tuesday Journal, it’s likely headed to Jackson – it’s that the state’s basketball overall championship has a solid foundation on which to build a new legacy.

“That’s been to me the highlight of my young career so far, was getting that off the ground and getting that started,” said Neal McCoy, director of sports development for the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It was never about me or about Tupelo, it was about reviving the Grand Slam and doing it for the kids.”

Now it’s up to Jackson to continue building the new legacy. To say the least, my faith in those folks is shaky.

For starters, all they’ve got to work with is the outdated Mississippi Coliseum. Sorry, but sentiment cannot cover all the scars and shortcomings of that place. Secondly, the state championships have never felt like state championships to me. The Coliseum and the MHSAA have taken a minimalist approach to hosting the event. Very little glamor, and only in the finals, when the crowds swell, do you get the sense that this is more than just some midseason invitational.

Tupelo made the Grand Slam more than a tournament. Everyone I’ve asked about it has admitted that. The small touches, the extraordinary hospitality, the organization – it all made for a big-time environment. The one thing missing: fans. You can blame the location, or you can blame fan apathy. I blame both, and without more time, neither issue can be properly addressed. I guess the MHSAA thought the money situation was too urgent to grant that extra time. Fair enough.

Dr. Ennis Proctor, the MHSAA executive director, says that the Grand Slam needs to stay alive. He thinks moving it to Jackson will resolve both the location and money questions. Let’s hope he backs up those words by helping the event reach its full potential and create a lasting legacy.


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All-Star Hoopage

First off, here’s today’s prep notebook. As Bobby Hall might say, New Site is in the football business.

The MAC North/South All-Star Games are this weekend. The slam dunk and 3-point contest are tonight; the games are Saturday at 1 p.m. (girls) and 3 (boys) at Mississippi College. I suggest you go tonight, because there’s nothing more riveting than a high school dunk contest.

I spoke with two of the boys coaches yesterday, Todd Hutchinson and Clay Norton. Hutchinson, a North coach from Grenada, is a Blue Mountain native. Norton is a Ripley native coaching for the South, and he recently left Forest Hill to take the ninth-grade job at Clinton. They’ve known each other for years, and I’ll have a story on them in Saturday’s paper.

The rosters have seen some changes since they were selected in March. Here’s what they look like now:

North Boys Roster
Pos. Player Height School

G DeMario Calvin 6-2 Greenville
G Jamal Farr 6-2 Nettleton
G Marcus Hooten 6-2 Provine
G/F Shaunvanta Ingram 6-3 Bruce
F Emery Kelly 6-7 Provine
G Julysses Nobles 5-11 Callaway
G/F Keith Searcy 6-3 Oxford
C/F Michael Starks 6-7 Humphreys Co.
F Jontaveaus Sultan 6-8 Yazoo City
G Lawrence Tolliver 6-2 Grenada
G Denardo Watkins 6-2 Shannon
G Evander Wofford 5-7 Houston
Coaches: Todd Hutchinson, Grenada; Bruce Franks, Houston.

South Boys Roster
Pos. Player Height School

F Kenny Ray Brown 6-6 Meridian
G Isaiah Canaan 6-0 Biloxi
F Deshun Carter 6-4 Meridian
F/C Samuel Ford 6-5 Wingfield
G Billy Hamilton 6-1 Taylorsville
G Darion Hamilton 6-3 Taylorsville
G Kegan Houston 5-10 Quitman
G Pedro Maciel 6-0 St. Stanislaus
F/C Nick Magee 6-5 Columbia
G Raymond Pittman 6-0 St. Stanislaus
G/F Justin Powell 6-2 Petal
F Korey Sanders 6-7 Raymond
Coaches: Clay Norton, Forest Hill; Lewis Lightsey, Northeast Lauderdale.

North Girls Roster
Pos. Player Height School

G Inessa Adams N/A Horn Lake
G Karnina Bunch 5-5 Warren Central
F Sha’Kayla Caples 5-11 Warren Central
G Tanecka Carey 5-8 Murrah
G Louise Collins 6-0 Yazoo Co.
G Lanita Futrell 5-6 Coldwater
G Kianna Harris 5-8 Provine
F Laneisha Jennie 5-10 Gentry
G Rachel Jones 5-6 H.W. Byers
G Maggie McFerrin 5-7 Tupelo
G Noel Prestage 5-9 Itawamba AHS
F/C Deanna Thompson 6-1 Oxford
Coaches: Don Bankhead, Ruleville Central; Charles Williams, Gentry.

South Girls Roster
Pos. Player Height School

G Carolinsia Crumbley 5-4 Northeast Jones
C Alia Frank 5-10 Natchez
G Mykeal Hall 5-7 Pass Christian
F Courtney Marbra 6-1 Forest Hill
G Deonica McCormick 5-5 Gulfport
F Ashley Morrison 5-9 Natchez
F Quentinette Odom 5-8 Scott Central
G Bianca Powell 5-5 Forest Hill
G Brittany Roberts 5-4 Southeast Lauderdale
G Joncyee Sanders 5-8 Brandon
G Lenise Stallings 5-7 Hattiesburg
F Paige Webster 6-0 Franklin Co.
Coaches: Jason Gentry, Philadelphia; Susan Johnson, Natchez

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Link of the Day

A nice read in USA Today about sons of former NBA stars. Michael Curry Jr. and Shawn Kemp Jr. are both rising seniors and pretty good college prospects. I’m always fascinated by how the children of pro athletes do in their athletic endeavors.

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Grand Slam Exit

The revived Grand Slam’s run in Tupelo appears over after just two years. As I reported in today’s Journal, the city of Tupelo and the MHSAA have been unable to reach an agreement to bring the state’s overall basketball tournament back to BancorpSouth Arena next year. The association is wanting Tupelo to pony up more guaranteed money, and that ain’t happenin’.

I can’t really find anywhere to place the blame. Gas prices make coming to Tupelo an expensive proposition, especially if you’re south of Jackson.

“If you had five out of 10 state champions from the Coast or Hattiesburg area,” Jackson Provine boys coach Luther Riley said, “that would be really terrible on their budget.”

Guess you can chalk this up to bad timing. If the Slam had been re-established a few years earlier, perhaps it would be entrenched enough in the state’s basketball consciousness to weather this fuel crisis. Maybe in a few years, when America weans itself off the Arabic oil nipple, the Slam can return here.

I just hope they find a home for it in the mean time. The coaches love it, the players love it, us media types love it. MHSAA honcho Dr. Ennis Proctor said he loves it (not those exact words). There are a few crusty cynics who will be glad to see the Slam go, and many of you just won’t care, which is something else that helped kill the Slam here: apathy.

If the MHSAA can’t find a way to continue the Slam, that apathy will ultimately be the biggest obstacle to its long-term success.

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Cliff Little to Tish Co.

Photo by Charles A.Smith/Special to the Journal

Cliff Little has been hired as Tishomingo County’s girls basketball coach. Little spent the past five seasons at East Webster, and he led the boys to the Class 1A state championship this year. He also coached the girls team his first two years on the job. East Webster is the only place the 29-year-old has coached.

The move brings the Corinth native back close to home. He’ll live on his parents’ land in Glen.

“It was real easy to take this job but hard for me to leave,” Little said.

He replaces Mike Cartwright, who resigned after coaching the Lady Braves for two seasons. Tishomingo was a sub.-500 team this year and lost to eventual state champ Gentry in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

Read more about this story in Wednesday’s Journal.

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Link of the Day

Many of you have accused the MHSAA of being concerned with the almighty dollar above everything else. I know they’re always looking for ways to make more money, and I wonder if they’ll follow the lead of Alabama.

The Birmingham News’ Ray Melick has a column on the AHSAA and its efforts to increase cash flow via broadcast rights fees, corporate sponsorships and site bids. That last avenue could create the biggest public reaction, because Auburn and Alabama want to host the state’s football and basketball championships on a rotating basis.

As you probably know, I think the MHSAA needs to find new venues for its football and basketball championships. It might have no choice on the football front if Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium is demolished (which it needs to be; I’ll have more on that topic later today). Putting locale aside for a moment, I wonder what y’all would think if Ole Miss and MSU were to host the championships.


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Stats: Kenny Mullin Jr. (Oxford) led the West with 19 points, seven boards. Gillard had 18 and Kelsey Barnes (Pontotoc) 14. For the East, Ricky Bell (Aberdeen) scored 25, and Spence Wicks (Booneville) added 17.

Now for the Daily Journal/W07BN all-All Star teams:

Girls: Di’Amber Johnson, Pontotoc; Ranisha Williams, Pontotoc; Jasmine Quinn, Aberdeen; Yalonda Davis, Biggersville; Cyndal Cleveland, Mantachie

Boys: Justin Gillard, Oxford; Kenny Mullin Jr., Oxford; Ricky Bell, Aberdeen; Grant Goolsby, Myrtle; Mitchell McCurry, East Webster

Final: West 80, East 77. Quite a finish. Oxford’s Justin Gillard got a steal and then hit a 3-pointer with 1 second left. The East got a timeout called with 0.9, but it couldn’t get off a shot on the inbounds. More coming.

2:45 left: 72-all. Booneville’s Spence Wicks just threw one down despite getting hacked, and I think that’s awakened the East.

3:25 left: East 71, West 66. Shame on y’all for not being here.

End 3rd: West 58, East 53.

Halftime: East 39, West 38. Heckuva game. The East scored 26 points this quarter, with Ricky Bell (Aberdeen) hitting two of three free throws with no time on the clock to give his team the edge. Same sorta thing happened at the end of the first, when the West’s James Elzie (Pontotoc) was fouled on a 3-pointer at the buzzer and drained all three.

After one quarter of the 3A/4A/5A boys game, the West leads 18-13.

Final: West 73, East 42. Pontotoc’s Di’Amber Johnson, the Daily Journal Player of the Year, had 30 points. Nice way to finish. She’s headed for Starkville now. Her Pontotoc teammate, Ranisha Williams, had 16 points. For the East, Aberdeen’s Jasmine Quinn scored 13, and Alcorn Central’s Erin Parrish added 12.

Halftime of the girls 3A/4A/5A game, and not surprisingly, the West leads 38-22.

Leading scorers: For the East, Mitchell McCurry (East Webster) 20, Justin Owens (H.W. Byers) 19, Darnell McGee (Thrasher) 10. For the West, Grant Goolsby (Myrtle) 24, Marquenton Williams 20. McCurry was named game MVP.

Final: East 81, West 76. West got within two points but committed a crucial turnover late. More on the way.

End 3rd: East 60, West 50.

Halftime: East 38, West 30. The East led by as much as 13. H.W. Byers’ Justin Owens leads the East with eight points; Myrtle’s Grant Goolsby has eight for the West.

End 1st: East 19, West 13. Lot of 3-point bricks being laid, but they’re just getting warmed up. This should be the best game of the day. Looking at the 3A/4A/5A girls rosters, I don’t think the East has a prayer.

Up next: 1A/2A boys.

Davis led all scorers with 18 points and was named game MVP. Other double digits from the East: Cyndal Cleveland (Mantachie) 11, Rumae Butler (Belmont) 10, Wey 10. Cleveland also had 10 boards.

For the West, Tucker finished with 14 to go with nine rebounds, and Denisa Crum (Falkner) had 11 points.

The free throw shooting was atrocious: The East was 12-for-23 (52.2%), the West 9-for-25 (36%).

Final: East 66, West 47. Stats and such in a moment.

I’m told this is not a live feed for Adam. It will air next weekend on Channel 98.

End of 3rd: East 47, West 31. The East trailed 9-1 early but has taken over the game, obviously. Strong play from Yalonda Davis (Biggersville) and Kathleen Wey (East Webster), a foreign exchange student from Belgium.

Halftime: East 29, West 22. Tucker still has 12, unofficially.

The 1A/2A girls game is under way. After one quarter, the West leads 15-12 behind Korty Tucker‘s (Hickory Flat) 12 points. I’ll post periodic updates. I’m sitting up here with Adam Gore, who’s broadcasting live, I believe.


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