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A Big Orange year for Wayne County basketball

By By Jeff Byrd/staff writer
Feb. 1, 2002
WAYNESBORO This been an unprecedented season for Wayne County High School basketball.
Not only are the Lady War Eagles steaming along with a 26-1 record after beating Meridian Tuesday night, their male counterparts in the War Eagles are 23-1. That makes for an outstanding combined record of 49-2 as the season heads into its final month.
Both teams are also ranked in the Top 5 in the Associated Press' Top 20 polls. Only one other school has posted similar numbers with that being Jackson Murrah.
If things keep going like they have all season, Wayne County will get its crack at Murrah in the Class 5A Boys and Girls State Tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum.
If it comes to pass, expect the Big House to have a distinct big orange color to it.
Perhaps the key factor behind the War Eagles' success comes from their stifling man-to-man pressure defense. They were able to overcome an early deficit against Meridian by limiting the Wildcats' looks at the basket.
Jackson agrees.
It begins with Gray at point guard. When he is not knocking down three-pointers, he can get the ball to the team's leading scorer in Dietric Slater, a cat-quick, 6-foot-3 forward.
And when Slater went out with fouls, someone else stepped up.
Making shots seems to come naturally to the Lady War Eagles of Gina Skelton. Like the guys, they trailed early in the second quarter to Meridian, but came back behind the shooting of Carla Bartee.
Bartee gets plenty of help from 5-foot-10 forward Natalie Jordan who signed early with the Mississippi University for Women. Jordan has averaged 16.6 points in her last five games.
Skelton uses an eight-player rotation. Rakesia Gray and Ratassia Worsham provide inside support while Sonya Henderson and Nicole Jordan chip in as well.
Then off the bench, Skelton can usually count on a spark from Tyleshia Arrington, a small, below 5-foot guard, who can provide a ton of energy.
Shelton, like Jackson is a veteran coach who has enjoyed success in other places. She led Forest to the 1994 State 3A Championship.
She is hoping to do the same for Wayne County.
Echoing that support is Scottie Boyd of Walthall County. She is Jackson's aunt and tries to come as many games as she can.