Meridian Star

March 5, 2014

Local teams prep for state tournament

By Reed DeSalvo \ The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star

— MERIDIAN — The Newton High School girl’s basketball team is currently riding a four-game winning streak and are looking to continue that streak in the most crucial part of the season.

The Lady Tigers (27-6) will square off against H.W. Byers High School at 9 a.m. Friday at the Mississippi Coliseum in their opening-round game of the MHSAA Class 2A state tournament.

Coach Marcus Luckett said it will be a contest between two teams with similar styles, with Byers holding a slight advantage physically.

“They pretty much mirror our team,” he said. “They are a pretty fast team, a pretty athletic team. They are just a little bigger and a little bit more athletic than we are.”

Despite being undersized, Luckett said that there will be no change of philosophy on his part.

“We’re going to do what we pretty much always do,” he said. “They’ve got a No. 1 option that they go to regardless, so we’re going to do our best to take No. 34 (Abria Gulledge) away.”

Luckett says that he doesn’t want his squad to become complacent and satisfied about reaching their current position.

“We want to go up there and compete,” he said. “(We want to) represent the community and the school well.”

Kemper County boys

DEKALB — After falling to East Side High School, 69-48, in the MHSAA Class 3A North State title game Saturday, Kemper County High School turns its sights to Saturday’s state tournament matchup against Velma Jackson High School.

First-year Wildcat coach Maurice Haralson said his squad is more than ready for the challenge.

“At this point right now, I feel like we’re playing our best basketball,” he said. “I feel like we can play with anybody, and so do the kids.”

When Kemper (16-8) takes to the floor, they will do so with three freshman starting: John Dale, Gus Maze and D.J. Clayton. Another freshman, Malik Jones, will come off the bench, along with sophomore Otis Cross.

Haralson said he believes sporting a young group will be a good thing, but it could also be unfavorable.

“I think they will come out and compete,” Haralson said of his young squad. “The reason I would say (it’s a concern) is because, when it’s your first time with anything, there can be some nerves. (The players) can also be too over-excited. They can be so hyped up that they aren’t really focused on the task at hand and not focused on the simple things.”

Daetrell Dell serves as the lone senior starter and the team’s captain. Along with Dell, Haralson relies on Maze to provide the necessary on the floor leadership.

“(Maze) has done a tremendous job for us,” Haralson said. “He plays beyond his years. He really settles us down on the floor.”

Haralson said the key for his team will be limiting mistakes.

“We canít turn the ball over,” Haralson said. “That’s been our downfall throughout the season. Sometimes (throughout the season) we could get lackadaisical. When we started winning the turnover battle, that’s when we really started hitting our stride. That’s been the difference.

“We can be a Cinderella story. Everything is starting to come together right now.”