The MHSAA state basketball tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum is one of the state’s best events each year. We’re so here for it. Here are the Best Things We Saw & Heard from Day Two:
Endya Buford: The Olive Branch All-State junior guard lived up to her billing as the best player in Mississippi. Buford put up 31 points, 10 steals (!), five rebounds and three assists in leading the Lady Quistors to a 78-72 win over defending 5A champion Hattiesburg. But even that ridiculous stat line doesn’t begin to tell the story. Buford woke the Quistors up in the second quarter with a series of buckets after the Lady Tigers opened an early 12 point lead, and sealed the game in the final seconds with a coast-to-coast reverse layup in traffic. In the highest of pressure situations and the frenetic atmosphere of final minutes at the Big House, Buford buried one free throw after another: 14-15 for the game. We can’t even begin to describe how ice-cold that is.
Jason Thompson’s offense-defense subs: Faced with an up-tempo game and an equally fast whistle, Olive Branch coach Jason Thompson was in a pickle. His two best players, Buford and senior guard Dasia Harden, each had four fouls by the midway point of the third quarter. Most of his key players were saddled with at least three personals. What transpired over the next twelve minutes was the stuff of high-level NBA maneuvering. Thompson used his deep bench to skillfully rotate Buford, Harden and others in and out of the game as the situation dictated and the game-flow allowed: in short, offense-defense substitution. The delicate hyper-rotation enabled Thompson to get the most out of his team while keeping his best players, namely Buford, in the game when it mattered.
Coahoma County – Bay Springs showdown: The rematch of the 2A title game a year ago went down was an entirely different affair — fortunately for Bay Springs and the viewing audience. The Bulldogs exacted revenge from a blowout loss in last year’s championship in a 54-52 thriller. But the two-time defending champion Red Panthers (28-3) and their proud, raucous fan base did not go quietly into the night. (Early on, the Coahoma crowd yelled “this is our HOUSE!” Bay faithful countered, “Not anymore.”) Sure enough, the Red Panthers mounted a frenzied double-digit comeback with less than three minutes remaining, but a last-second layup from forward Markevious Phillips rimmed out. Poor shooting doomed the Red Panthers, who shot 3-21 from three-point range. Clutch play from star guard Kevin Grimes (20 pts, 7-12 FG) & 6’8 big man Damien Wheaton (12 rebs, 7 blk) propelled the Bulldogs. It was a battle worthy of the heavyweight mantle, and likely the de-facto title game.
Corey Mackey’s chocolate plaid: Coaches big-game outfits are always one of the best sights of the Big House scene, going back decades to legendary loud suit guys like Lafayette Stribling and Wayne Brent. Mackey wore a classy but bold “chocolate plaid with pads” sport coat, as analyst and coach-suit admire Tim Speech commented on the broadcast. It’s always impressive to ditch the suit and still stay clean and classy. Former Velma Jackson coach Anthony Carlyle perfected this look with the blistering gold and blue ensembles from the Falcons heyday. If Mackey can duplicate Caryle’s success in the title game as well as the sideline style, consider it top dressing.
Calvin Temple’s Big Game: We saw Temple against Center Hill’s win over Petal in the Rumble In The South, but it was one of the worst games of the season (13 pts) for the All State senior and IUPUI commit. Not so in the 73-69 semifinal win over Hattiesburg. Temple didn’t shoot it particularly well but poured in a game-high 28 points (8-22 FG) and had six steals, including a few big ones late in the game. Temple shot 11-13 from the free throw line to prove his senior mettle and earn a title shot for the Mustangs.