High school basketball’s Mecca is without a champion for the first time in over 10 years. Heading into this year’s tournament beginning this Thursday, March 1st, Jackson Public Schools has the opportunity to have a champion in 4A, 5A, and 6A. Lanier High School is the lone 4A representative. However, both the boys and girls have made to the Elite 8. The Lady Bulldogs coached by Jonas James, is a contender every year. His lady bulldogs’ core group has been together since 9th grade. Injuries prevent a possible championship game appearance last year. Despite injuries, Lanier made it to the big house, but came up a little short. Thursday at 1:30 pm at Jackson State, Lanier (17-9) will battle with Byhalia (21-5).
Lanier boys rebounded from a disappointing season last year under first year head coach, Darein Hilliard, to reach the Elite Eight. While their record won’t mesmerize you, give the bulldogs credit for getting hot at the right time of the season. Expect 833 Nation to be in full effect Thursday. Lanier (10-16) will attempt to knock off New Hope (22-7) at 5:30 pm at the Mississippi Coliseum.
Dropping down from 6A to 5A, Callaway and Forest Hill boys are the JPS schools competing for the 5A Crown. Armed with Dandy Dozen talent, experienced coaches, and confidence both schools would love nothing better to battle each other for the state title. Based on the brackets, that could happen. It won’t be easy. Olive Branch and Canton are serious contenders this year. Canton (28-3) defeated, Callaway, Olive Branch, and Forest Hill once this season. Of their 3 losses, only 1 has been from a Mississippi team, and that was their arch rival Velma Jackson who won by 3 points. But first things first, Callaway (24-5) faces Stone (24-5) Friday at 5:30 at the Mississippi Coliseum. Immediately following, Forest Hill (24-5) must contend with Saltillo (28-2) at 7:00 pm at the Mississippi Coliseum.
If JPS is collect a gold ball from 6A, it’s up to the Lady Mustangs of Murrah. 3-time champion head coach, Tangela Banks has a strong girls team at her disposal. Murrah has been ranked number 1 most of the season with a record of 27 wins and 2 losses. Those 2 losses however, have come at the hands of district rival Starkville who made it to the 6A championship game last year. Starkville has taken 2 of the 3 games they played against Murrah this year. All 3 games have been close. If there is a fourth game, it will be for the 6A championship. But there are two games, before the championship game that lady mustangs must win first. Murrah (27-2) will battle with Gulfport (18-8) at noon Saturday at Jackson State. For those curious, Starkville (25-2) must contend with St. Martin (25-3) bright and early at 9 am Saturday morning at Jackson State. St. Martin brings 6’5” Center and Mississippi State Signee, Daphane White with them. White is averaging, according to MaxPreps, 25 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks per game. White received national recognition, scoring 69 points with 19 rebounds and 7 blocks in a game, December 15, 2017 versus Pass Christian.
Expect good basketball action this season as tournament time starts Thursday.