BY JOE B. COATES
I wasn’t there. I haven’t seen either team play all season long. As a high school basketball official, I’m on the court in another gym somewhere in southwest Mississippi/southeast Louisiana most nights they’ve played this season. On my off nights, I’m usually at home with my family. So, I can only imagine the electricity in the atmosphere in Crystal Springs High School gym last Saturday night when Hazlehurst and Crystal Springs met for the girls south state 3A title. I bet it was unmatched.
I’ve heard from many fans of both teams how even the whistles from the officials were hard to hear because of the roars from each team’s fans during and after action in the ballgame. Knowing many of the Indian fans and a few of the Tiger fans, that is understandable. The Lady Tigers won the game by the narrowest of margins, 34-33 and claimed the top seed in the state tournament this week and next at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson-known as ‘The Big House’. Hazlehurst, the unlikeliest of teams to make the state tournament at 10-17, is the No. 2 seed from the south. The Tigers play north no. 2 Booneville on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Indians play north no. 1 Belmont at 6:30 that night.
You reckon the Big House will be rockin on Saturday?
If one had to handicap the games on Saturday, he would say that Crystal Springs, the Region 7-3A regular season and tournament champs, have the best chance to advance to the state title game out of the two Copiah County teams on Saturday. Hazlehurst, as a tournament analyst might say, is the Cinderella team. Such teams have fate going with them. They are teams of destiny, as the color analysts say on TV. A few years ago, a similar Raymond boys 3A team surprised a good Hazlehurst team in the semi-finals at the Big House, ending a good post-season run for the Indians in disappointment. Raymond went on lose the state title later that week.
The larger picture is this: two of the 3A girls teams playing in the state tournament are from Copiah County, and they have a chance to play for the state title! Odds are almost even that the state 3A girls title game will feature two teams from Copiah County, not to mention that they are rivals and that they compete in the same region. As of right now, each one of the four teams is 0-0. Each team has a chance to play two games and win a state title. The best team in the state may not even be the state champion. The title is going to be won by the team that plays the best, makes the fewest mistakes, makes the most free throws and whose teammates play in control the longest.
We wish both teams good luck in the semi-finals and remember to take it one game at at a time. You’ve already made history, now go make history!