Since Christmas, I have covered some of the teams that won or played for a state championships last season.
And I was able to talk to the respective head coaches at length after each contest. This particular effort is on the New Site Lady Royals, the defending Class 2A State Champions.
If some might have a hard time gauging the 2012-13 Lady Royals, that is OK. I think I’ve used the phrase disappearing into their division schedule to describe the recent efforts of the Lady Royals.
No knock to Division 1-2A, but New Site has their goals set higher than division play.
“I think for the most part, the team has handled it well,” head coach Byron Sparks said about being the 2A defending champ. “I think we’ve played well, even since the Pontotoc game.”
New Site has only four loses this season: Starkville Academy on Nov. 6, Ripley Dec. 18, Gulfport Dec. 21, and Ocean Springs Dec. 22.
After that three-game losing streak, New Site downed defending 4A champ Pontotoc 65-57 on Dec. 28. That began a 16-game winning streak.
“As a whole, our kids are so unselfish,” Sparks said. “We have a different kid leading us in scoring every night.
“We just go into a game, and take whatever the other team is giving us, no matter what the defense.”
New Site does have five players averaging in double figures: seniors Christi Clark and Addison Lucas, and Cristin Pharr, Shelby Stricklen, and Grace Elliot.
Just from the couple of times I have had the pleasure of covering the Lady Royals, Clark is one of my favorite players to watch this season, along with Tupelo’s Casey Marshall and New Albany’s Jasmine Spears.
Just the common sense/basketball smarts at times is wonderful to see in this day and age.
I laughingly tweeted more than once last week that I would take Clark, Marshall, and Spears, and pit them three on five against any other five girls from Northeast Mississippi, and I think they would win at least one quarter in that type of matchup.
“I would much rather have the balance we have than depend on Christi to score 20 points a game,” Sparks said. “She’s fine with that.”
Here in the middle of the week of the 2A North Tournament, New Site gets to host potentially three games Thursday-Saturday on the road to Jackson.
Perhaps the toughest test will come Thursday when the Lady Royals play Coahoma AHS at 4 p.m. Get past that, and I might cautiously say it is clear sailing down the Natchez Trace for a chance for consecutive state titles.
“We’re looking to play with the effort we’re playing at right now,” Sparks said about the challenge awaiting the Lady Royals immediately following winning the division championship. “We want to make teams play the style we want to play.
“We need to stay sharp, and stay healthy.”
One game at time to all teams still playing, beginning with Thursday.
David Wheeler has been contributing to the high school sports coverage of the Daily Journal since 1985.