The Stone High School boys and girls’ varsity basketball teams won their respective 4A Region 7 District Championships.
The LADY CATS
The Lady Cats won 50-42 against Greene County, finally beating after falling behind in the first two rivalry matches.
“I think it is a great accomplishment,” Head Coach Sam Smith said. “We missed winning in the finals last year by a bit.”
The Championship game, as well as the play-offs, were played at the Sumrall High School gym, because of COVID-19 precautions.
The players on both teams were assertive from the first quarter. The Lady Cats and the Lady Wildcats both wanted to win.
The first two quarters were tough, Stone started behind. There was visible frustration on the girls’ faces as they bounded down the court for a chance to score.
The hustle paid off.
By the end of the third quarter, the Lady Cats were leading 34-28.
Greene County fought back. A couple of players fell, being trampled for the ball. One Greene County player was taken off the court after she injured her eye.
By the end of the game, the only thing Greene County led Stone in was fouls, which gave Stone an advantage.
The Lady Cats did not miss a single free throw all night, scoring 11 points on the Lady Wildcats’ penalties.
“I think the defense played exceptionally well,” Smith said.
Junior guard Hayleigh Breland scored nine of the free throws. Senior Reina Hartfield scored two free throws.
The girls were also the leading scorers in the game. Breland racked up a whopping 32 points while Hartfield scored 10.
Earlier in the week, the Lady Cats beat Sumrall by a score of 45-37 to advance for a shot at the championship title. The Breland-Hartfield duo also claimed top scores for the night.
Breland scored 24 points against the Sumrall Bobcats. Hartfield scored another 11 points.
At the end of the Division Championship, the Lady Cats were called forward to claim their awards and trophies.
Breland was named the MVP, and Hartfield was given the Sportsmanship award for the Division. Breland and Hartfield were also named All-District 7 Region 4A Players.
Breonna Huddleston, Ijia Henderson, and Jakyrra Green received an Honorable Mention.
Breland was the first to take hold of the Championship trophy, before passing it along to her teammates. There was a gleam in their eyes that did not leave as they walked off the court for an easy ride back to Wiggins.
“I’m proud of them,” Coach Smith said. “They worked really hard… I just hope we win the next one.”
Last year, Head Coach Todd Miller knew he had the team talent to take the Tomcats further into post-season play in years.
The Tomcats won 43-37, beating the Forrest County Agricultural High School Aggies for the Division Championship.
Miller said it feels good to win after putting in so much time and effort this year.
“They worked really hard, from August until we started playing,” Miller said. “It was like they approached each game with a business-like attitude. The goal was to get back to the championship game.
The Aggies beat the Tomcats for the title last year, which stung.
Miller said the team remembered how it felt to lose on the court last year.
Many of the leading scorers for the previous year returned to play, so the win was personal. This year, the Tomcats were determined to walk away victorious.
Senior guard Cortez Dennis, the usual lead scorer for Stone, was nursing an injury.
The team stepped up for the win.
Junior Jsaiah Brown pulled his weight on the court. Brown landed 18 points in the game with five assists and seven rebounds. He was named Player of the Week for his performance that night.
Both teams were tough defenses. Stone stayed in a tight lead for the first three quarters. The first quarter ended with Stone leading 4-1. In the second quarter, the Tomcats were only leading 9-3.
As the game was winding down, the teams tied at 25-25. The Championship was determined in the last three minutes.
Brown and his teammates kept at it. They landed just enough shots to get ahead with some to spare.
An onlooker from the stands said Brown had already won the game.
The Tomcats rushed for the trophy as officials gave it out.
“To say this win was special is an understatement,” Miller said.
Miller was named Coach of the Year. Players Brown, Dennis, Cadence Johnson, Mike Hall, and Kaleb Johnson were named All-District 7 Region 4A. C.C. Herrien was given Honorable Mention. Hall was given the Sportsmanship award.
The Lady Cats and the Tomcats will advance toward the first round of the State Championship later this week after the winter storm warnings postponed the scheduled games. Both teams will face off against the McComb High School boys and girls’ varsity teams at home in Wiggins on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.
The Lady Cats will play at 5 p.m. The Tomcats will play at 6:30 p.m.