Area hoops getting wilder by the day
Feb. 22, 2002
Man, there has been some crazy basketball going on lately.
There is the West Lauderdale-Heidelberg High school girls game of last weekend that ended in more than just a little bit of controversy, which has already been hashed over enough.
There was the thriller last Friday night when the Meridian High School boys beat No. 3 Columbus in double-overtime, using a three-pointer with one tick left to send it into the second extra playing period.
And then there was the valiant effort of the Lady Trojans of Northeast Lauderdale on Monday night, when they just simply out-hustled and out-fought a bigger and more-talented Brookhaven team to take a 55-45 win in the first round of the Class 4A South State Tournament.
That game simply amazed me.
I sat along side athletic trainer Jason Davis, NEL boys basketball coach Lewis Lightsey and Northeast employee Tommy Gunn during the game and told them more than once that the game was slap wearing me out.
It really was.
I have watched a lot of basketball teams play hard for coaches in my lifetime, but I don't know if I've every seen one play any harder.
Dale Peay's best teams at East Mississippi Community College were always ones that may have been short on talent, but were long on desire. And most importantly, the desire to play for him.
I saw the the Lamar School boys basketball team hit the floor time-after-time last year with just eight players Q and very rarely were all of those healthy.
But they literally played so hard they could barely drive themselves home after the game. They left it on the floor for a lot of reasons, but head basketball coach Todd Yates was one of them.
Those guys and that coach just clicked. It happens sometimes.
I saw the same thing on Monday night.
The Northeast Lauderdale girls just refused to give up.
They played hard when they couldn't get the ball down the floor against the Brookhaven press early in the game.
They played hard when the visitors jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Shoot, they were even playing hard when they stole the ball, but mistakenly scored in their own basket.
They were playing hard in the second quarter when they missed seven straight free throws.
They were playing hard when shot-after-shot bounced around the rim in the first two quarters, but just wouldn't go in.
They were outsized and outnumbered, but they just didn't quit.
Don't misunderstand, there are some talented players on the team. You don't get this far a spot in the MHSAA Class 4A South State semifinals this weekend in Poplarville without being able to play some hoops.
But there is much more to this team than just that.
Coaches play many roles when it comes to sports.
They decide who plays. They decide what offenses and defenses to run, they come up with plays and make all kinds of strategic decisions.
They fuss when fussing is needed and console when there is a call for consolation. But what I saw on that floor on Monday night simply can't be taught.
Those girls played hard. And let me tell you something, I have never seen a team play hard for a coach they didn't respect. It just doesn't happen.
When you see a team playing its heart out, leaving skin and blood on the floor and refusing to quit no matter how many mistakes it makes, no matter how many calls go against it, no matter what opponent it is facing, then you simply need to look over to the bench to find the reason.
I have always had a measure of respect for Stegall's coaching ability. That measure certainly increased on Monday night.
Perhaps longtime Southeast Lauderdale head girls basketball coach Joe Miller said it best when he walked up to Stegall after the game, shook his hand and said, "Congratulations coach, your girls played hard for you tonight."
That was all he said.
That was enough.