David Wheeler on High School Sports

Been out covering so much basketball the last couple of weeks, have not had a chance to sit down and do this column – not that there is anything wrong with that
Not all that long ago, Nov. 18, I was covering a contest which had North Pontotoc at Ingomar.
Ahh, mention Ingomar and basketball, and you think of Norris Ashley.
A total of 43 seasons as a head basketball coach at the Union County school.
A total of 9 state championships.
A total of 1,697 total victories between boys and girls teams, and the winningest high school boys basketball coach in the history of Mississippi.
And one of the most quotable head coaches a reporter could ever hope to interview following a contest.
And still at courtside this night. Only he was not on the bench.
Of course as many know, his son Jonathan Ashley is in his first season in charge of the Falcons after a successful run of 158 victories at Myrtle. In his six season there, Jonathan guided Myrtle to the Class 1A championship game twice.
“I want to win, I’m not into moral victories,” said Ashley after losing to North Pontotoc 72-63 this night. At this point in the season, North Pontotoc was undefeated.
How tough a position is the younger Ashley in having to replace his father – certainly a legend in this humble corner of the state?
Having covered him enough times while at Myrtle, I feel I can say with some certainty that he will put the proper amount of focus on the task of being the head coach of the Ingomar Falcons, and none will be the wiser about any extra pressure of who the coach was prior to him.
“I just hope I’m 1/10th as successful as he was,” Jonathan said. “When I decided to get into coaching, I knew I was not going to be the best in this household.
“But I think I’ve learned as much as I could from daddy.”
And how is the elder Ashley doing these days?
Is he going to every Ingomar game this season?
Sadly, I did not take enough time to have but a quick conversation with him this night.
“I’ve got enough road games in me,” Norris said. Basically indicating about the only place you will run into him involving basketball will be at Ingomar.
That is about the way it should be for someone like Norris Ashley, Rex Berryman, or Jim Drewry.
People who live in Northeast Mississippi should be reminded that each of these men who coached most if not all of their careers in this corner of the state, are the winningest coaches in Mississippi in their respective sports.
Drewry in football, most notably with Booneville.
Berryman in baseball with Mooreville.
And if you still want the honor of shaking their hands, go attend a game in their respective towns.
I have seen all three this season. For a true high school sports person in this part of the state, it should a be a requirement for as long as possible!

A short week
In this abbreviated week of high school basketball in the area, there are notable tournaments at Alcorn Central, Booneville, and Baldwyn.
Games that draw my interest include Baldwyn vs. Houlka boys at Baldwyn Thursday; Baldwyn vs. Mooreville boys at Baldwyn, Booneville vs. Houston boys at Booneville, and New Site vs. Pontotoc girls at Booneville Friday; Pontotoc vs. Olive Branch girls and New Site vs. Center Hill girls at Booneville Saturday.
I am also interested in how the Tupelo Golden Wave and Lady Wave fare down in Hattiesburg for three games this week.
You might remember the Wave were not on many people’s radar a year ago, which is about when they came together as a team, eventually playing for the 6A state title. And the Lady Wave, who play four sophomores in their top 7, are building toward a 6A run by the time the current sophomores are seniors.

David Wheeler has been contributing to the high school sports coverage for the Daily Journal since 1985.

Posted in Sports

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