Lady Rockets advance to 4A North Final Four

By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
Feb. 20, 2001
PHILADELPHIA When Neshoba Central qualified for the 1998 state basketball tournament, Lady Rockets' coach Bill Smith allowed his team to shave his head before it played in Jackson.
Prior to Monday night's first-round Class 4A North State game with Clarksdale, Smith said history wouldn't repeat itself if his team gets that far this time as he doesn't have enough hair left to spare.
Instead, his Lady Rockets did their trimming on the visiting Wildkittens, 84-61 to advance to the 4A North State Final Four this weekend.
Smith said Neshoba and Raymond were the two likely choices to host the two-day event. A decision will be made today by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
The 23-point final margin was quite generous as Neshoba led by as much as 40 in the third quarter.
The Lady Rockets used their full-court press to score the game's first eight points. A three-point play by Tausha Evans gave Neshoba an 18-2 lead with 3:20 left in the first quarter.
By the end of the period, the Lady Rockets were up 27-7 with Evans scoring nine points.
Evans tossed in 12 points in the second period and India Backstrum went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line as Neshoba took a commanding 50-23 lead into halftime.
Smith wasn't necessarily surprised with the early dominance by his team which won its seventh-straight game.
Miranda Rosar got eight points in the third quarter and Evans scored seven as the Lady Rockets led by as much as 67-27 before closing the period with a 69-36 advantage.
Valencia Rhodes scored 11 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter as Clarksdale outscored Neshoba 25-15 over the final eight minutes in which Evans and Rosar saw no action.
Evans led Neshoba, 26-9, with 28 points. Rosar scored 15, Latoya Jones had 12, Krystal Wells had eight, Backstrum added seven, and Elyse Willis tossed in six.
Smith hopes his team's depth proves to be an ally in this weekend's North State Final Four.
The Lady Rockets were 18-of-25 at the free-throw line, while Clarksdale made seven of its 15 freebies.
Clarksdale, 22-11, also got 17 points from Portia Collins and 13 from Curtisha McGregory.
The Lady Rockets will face Yazoo City Friday at 6:30 p.m. in their 4A North State semifinal.
Yazoo City defeated Holly Springs 58-53 in another Monday night quarterfinal.
Also in the field are Raymond, a 73-61 winner over Oxford, and 28-5 Division 2-4A rival Noxubee County, a 75-69 winner over Cleveland East Side.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at sports@themeridianstar.com.

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