If anybody knows the road to Jackson, it'd be Joe Miller.
The legendary Southeast Lauderdale girls basketball coach has led his Tigers to Jackson — and the state tournament — eight out of the past nine seasons. Sometimes, that trip was expected – Southeast won more than 30 games in each of the first six years of that streak including two state championships. Others it was a little more surprising as the Tigers rebounded from a losing season in 2009-10 with a state tournament berth in 2010-11 riding senior stars Pashen Thompson and Rachel Adams. Southeast then promptly returned to the Big House — Mississippi Coliseum — last season without those two.
So on the heels of those two straight trips with four starters back and the addition of center Crystal Clay from Clarkdale, Miller and Southeast has a familiar goal for 2012-13: end the year at the home away from home.
“Well you know we've been there eight of the last nine years and we feel like we have a good chance to make it nine out of 10,” he said. “We've got to stay away from injuries and work hard.
“We have to improve a lot. We've got a lot of potential, but like I told them you can't win on just potential and talent, you've got to work hard and get some breaks. I feel good about our chances but there will be a lot of tough games along the way.”
But the road to Jackson isn't smooth and Miller expects some obstacles to crop up, starting with Division 5-3A rival and also perennial power Choctaw Central. The Warriors have made three straight state tournaments and return a host of talent as well. Newton, another state power, also resides in the district, and there are always potential stumbling blocks throughout the state playoffs.
“Of course Choctaw will be good again,” Miller added. “They've got some excellent players and it'll be another tough fight for us and them, I'm sure.”
Still, Southeast seems to have the necessary tools to avoid the pitfalls. And that starts with the return of guards Denisha Knight, Tay Ruffin and Kamesha Pringle. The three seniors combined to average 25.5 points per game last year as Southeast went 24-9. In a state semifinal loss to eventual champion Ripley two years ago, Southeast coughed up a big lead late with turnovers and missed free throws. That experience, though, along with leading Southeast back to that stage a year ago, has Miller confident in his experienced ballhandlers.
“I feel like our guards are fast and much better ball handling than in the past,” he said. “When I look that, those were young guards and those same guards are going to be seniors now and that experience from two years ago and from last year that our guard play is going to be much improved.”
Added to that experience in the backcourt, Southeast is also experienced and talented in the frontcourt. Jasmine Bush, who developed into a solid scoring option as a sophomore in 2010-11, became the Tigers' top threat a year ago averaging 17.2 points. Now, she will share that load down low with Clay, who starred for Clarkdale the past three seasons. The 6-foot-3 senior averaged 17 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks last season in leading the Bulldogs to their best season ever.
Her addition makes Southeast formidable.
“We're very fortunate she moved in and she'll slide right into that one open spot we had,” Miller said. “We feel like we're going to be a good ball team.
“Our main strength should be inside with Crystal and Jasmine. I haven't seen everybody play but I really doubt there's two stronger post players on the same team in the state.”
Even with all those puzzle pieces meshing together, Miller isn't predicting a return to the Big House just yet. And he also isn't sharing any secret directions on how to get there. But he does know one thing that seems to help the Tigers: they expect to get there every single season.
“I think about that sometimes and I don't know that there is any secret,” he said. “We've had a lot of talent over the years and the kids have worked hard and they expect to be there.
“You have to give them the credit.”
Southeast girls aim for ninth trip to state in 10 years
If anybody knows the road to Jackson, it'd be Joe Miller.
Neshoba Pee Wees advance to championship
The Neshoba Pee Wees defeated a very physical Wayne County team last Saturday night at Jones Junior College in Ellisville.
The win puts Neshoba in this Saturday's Mississippi Youth Football championship game in the Pee Wee division against Poplarville. In addition to Wayne County, Neshoba's playoff run includes wins over Oak Grove, Quitman, and Petal.
Fantasy forecast: Help for your playoff run
So you made it past the first round, or you are playing in a dynasty league and need to know who to pick up, or you just want to avoid finishing last in your league in order to not lose a bet. Whatever your reason for reading I am glad that you are, and I am going to give you a couple of guys that you may be able to insert to help you out this week:
CLEVELAND: Turk’s legacy won’t soon be forgotten
Don’t you love it when younger coaches get it? Don’t you love it when they appreciate the legends who became before them, the people who created a situation they enjoy?
- MCC’s Huff named to 2013 NJCAA All-American team
TSOUKALAS: Is Stephens the new Sullivan?
Positioned in front of Sullivan-Windham Field in Scooba, the stadium that proudly bares his last name, stands legendary East Mississippi Community College head coach Bob “Bull” “Cyclone” Sullivan.
Adkins wraps up EMCC career at 24-0
Off the field, East Mississippi Community College wide receiver Antoinne Adkin’s life has been a roller coaster. On it though, it has been nothing short of perfect.
Winning in Mississippi extra sweet for EMCC
“If you build it he will come” is a popular quote from the 1989 film Field of Dreams. The statement could be said of the winning tradition behind the success of the East Mississippi Community College football program.
- (PHOTOS) EMCC Wins National Championship Slideshow from the East Mississippi Community College National Championship win in Biloxi. High resolution photos can be viewed at http://themeridianstar.smugmug.com/Sports/EMCC-National-Champions/35256383_MfR3vh#!i=2957460549&k=BZ7r378
East Mississippi tops Georgia Military for NJCAA title
For the second time in three seasons, the East Mississippi Community College Lions are kings of the junior college world. No. 2 EMCC outlasted No. 1 Georgia Military College, 52-32, in the Mississippi Bowl to earn the National Junior College Athletic Association’s national championship Sunday night at Biloxi Indian Stadium.
Lions bring home hardware in title win
After a convincing, 52-32, National Junior College Athletic Association national championship victory over Georgia Military College, the East Mississippi Lions had three members of its team to win prestigious hardware.
- More Sports Headlines
- Neshoba Pee Wees advance to championship