By John Davis, Sports Editor
Before Leake Central even hit the floor at the Lafayette High gym Friday night, coach Tyler Sparks told his team that the MHSAA Class 4A playoff contest would be a challenge. <>
Sparks told his Lady Gators how good Shaniyah Buford was and how big and fast Shayne Linzy’s team could be.
Everything Sparks told his players turned out to be true, which was a bad thing in regards to its 2015-16 season. Buford scored 26 points to key a 68-30 win and advance the Lady Commodores to the MHSAA Class 4A state tournament.
“I scouted Lafayette at Christmas so I knew what was coming. I knew they were much bigger and more physical and we’re not very big and unless we’re shooting well, it’s hard,” Sparks said following the setback. “I knew (Buford) was going to be hard on us to guard. I didn’t have anybody her size, or her speed, to put on her. Do I go with a smaller girl who is faster or do I go with a bigger girl who is slower. It was sort of a Catch 22.”
It actually turned out to be more like a catch No. 3, Buford’s number. Leake Central had trouble finding her on defense and when the Lady Gators did get out on her, Buford drive right on past them for buckets. She scored the first seven points of the game, and had 23 of her 26 in the first half.
Linzy said Buford was motivated to play well after being held to 14 points by Shannon in Monday’s first round.
“She really went after it tonight. She really stepped up tonight,” Linzy said of Buford. “It’s an awesome experience to go to Jackson. The kids are going to love it. And bottom line, that’s why we do it, we do it for these girls.”
Some other LHS players that stood out to Linzy were Shelbi Buford, who almost had a triple double, Xhiir Burgess, Mariah Holland and Orianna Shaw combined to have 25 rebounds.
“We owned the boards tonight, and that was a huge, huge difference in the game,” Linzy said.
Going to Jackson
This is the fourth time that Linzy has led a team to Jackson for the state tournament, and his first since leading Oxford to the 2012 state title.
“It’s an awesome experience to go to Jackson. The kids are going to love it,” Linzy said. “And bottom line, that’s why we do it, we do it for these girls or boys, whatever you’re coaching.”
Lafayette, which never trailed Friday, will play Florence Thursday at Jackson State. That contest will start at 5:30 p.m.
“I’ve been following them and several other teams from the south all year and they are good but we’re going to make sure that we take care of Lafayette first,” Linzy said. “We’re going to make sure we handle our team and if we play our game, that’s going to give us the best opportunity to be successful.”