When Myrtle takes the court at New Albany this Friday night, all eyes will be on the play of two individuals in particular. The shocking part about this is that they're also the youngest members of their respective teams.
Aspriona Gilbert of Myrtle and Jazmine Spears for New Albany have created a lot of buzz so far this season, as both are among the leading scorers and rebounders for their respective teams. Why is this such a surprise? Simple, Gilbert is a freshman for the Lady Hawks, while Spears is only in the 8th grade.
“She's a great player that gives us an inside presence. She's actually a better kid than player,” Myrtle head coach Chris Greer said of Gilbert. “She gets along with everybody. We've been working with her to get better on defense, and she's trying to. She's definitely not the only player we've got, but she definitely helps us.”
“We're really pleased with Jazmine,” NAHS head coach John Stroud said. “Anytime you get an 8th grader just to make your team and then be your leading scorer and leading rebounder, it's just something special. We're really proud of her.”
Gilbert is among the leading scorers for Myrtle this season, averaging 19 points per game, along with 10 rebounds a game. Her most impressive stat, 101 blocks, is a team high at 5.1 per game.
“I would say that I have the teammates to pass the ball to me and to get in there. As far as blocking, I just try to jump as high as I can,” said Gilbert of her success so far this season.
For the Lady Bulldogs, Spears is averaging about 17 points and 10 rebounds a game, a team high in both categories.
“I just try to do my best and help the team in every way that I can,” Spears said.
Both ladies have had the opportunity to get to know one another as they've been teammates in summer leagues.
“We played summer ball with my dad and my uncle,” Spears said. “It was like, some of the people on my team and some of the girls on Myrtle playing against other teams from Desoto and other places.”
“We're good friends. We don't talk a lot like good friends do, but I wouldn't trade being teammates with her for anything,” Gilbert added.
While neither are old enough to be in the leadership position, they've been looked to by their teammates, and are learning a lot from the older players.
“It takes more than just one person,” Gilbert said of the advice she's received. “If I have a bad night, then Amber's there. If Amber has a bad night, I'm there for her and Beth is there. I know that it takes more than one person.”
Spears may be looked to a little more, as the starting lineup for the Lady 'Dawgs features Spears, along with three sophomores. Still, the youngest member of the team knows she has a lot to learn.
“They've taught me how to be a good player and show good leadership to everybody and try to do my best,” Spears said.
Friday night will be the rematch between the Lady 'Dawgs and Lady Hawks, with New Albany having the edge in round one, 58-50 at Myrtle.
“We just hope to compete. New Albany is undefeated, and we're just going to try to compete,” Greer said of the matchup. “They're a great team and we're going to try to do our best.”
“I'm sure they'll want some revenge come Friday night,” Stroud added. “We've had a good season so far at 15-0, but we can't let that undefeated record have anything to do with Friday night. We just need to play one game at a time. I'm sure it will be a good game for both teams. I think whoever makes the plays down the stretch will win the game.”
Both coaches know exactly who their respective teams need to be watching out for.
“It takes more than one person to guard Aspriona,” Stroud said. “She requires a double team a lot, and she requires even three players sometimes, so it's not really a fair matchup one-on-one because she's such a good player, as is Jazmine. We're just going to give Jazmine a lot of help and just hope that Aspriona can miss some of those easy shots that she makes.”
As for the girls, they know what they have to do in order to help their team pick up a big win.
“Hopefully I cannot foul out and I want to try to score better than what I did last time,” Gilbert said, as she only had 12 points versus New Albany in the first contest.
“We need to have good defense, good offense and just try to stop Aspriona from beating us,” Spears said.
Friday night's game is slated for a 6:00 p.m. start at Memorial Gym in New Albany.