FIVE AREA TEAMS BEGIN STATE TITLE HUNT TODAY, THURSDAY
By Mike Talbert
JACKSON Today and Thursday, five more Northeast Mississippi teams will be trying to match first-round wins by the first two area teams, New Albany and Tishomingo County, to play in the state basketball tournament.
Perhaps none of the five faces a tougher job than the Falkner Eagles (21-9), who open Class 1A boys play at 8:30 p.m. today against Durant (26-8). Durant is seeking its fourth consecutive title at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
The game follows a Class 1A match between the Smithville girls (22-10) and Enterpise-Lincoln at 7 p.m.
Three more area teams open Thursday, with Hickory Flat (26-8), the third-seeded North 1A girls team, playing Bogue Chitto at 1:30 p.m., followed by the Hatley Lady Tigers (29-4), who are seeking to rebound from a 65-62 loss to the state's No. 1 team West Tallahatchie in the North 2A championship. The Lady Tigers play Bay Springs (21-11) at 7 p.m.
"I've told our girls to hold their heads up, we'd like to play West Tallahatchie again," Hatley coach Mickey Miller said.
The Calhoun City boys (13-13) will be trying to finish the season above .500 as they open 2A boys play against Bay Springs (19-12) at 8:30 p.m.
The other five area teams Oxford's boys and girls, West Union's girls and Mooreville's and Biggerville's boys are North champions and don't play until next week.
New Albany's boys and the Tishomingo County girls opened play with commanding wins. New Albany beat West Marion 95-81 in Class 3A Monday and Tishomingo stopped Stone County 55-37 in 4A Tuesday.
Falkner faces a Durant squad led by a deadly outside shooter, Torry Potee, and a pair of 6-foot-7 inside players.
"It would be nice if we had an edge somewhere," said Falkner coach Tim Leatherwood, who is taking his first team to Jackson. "They have the edge in playoff experience, in size and in some of the little variables. The only thing we won't be is outhustled."
Durant may not have the overall edge in pure athleticism, either.
Falkner's starting five are also the skill players from the Division 1-1A championship football team that went 9-2.
Center Bradly Prather and forward Edward Prather are averaging 17 points each, and point guard Isaiah Simmons is averaging 13 points and nine assists. Guards Shino Edgeston and Shane Prather are also scoring at a 10-point pace.
Falkner has been one of the hottest area teams. After a slow 5-7 post-football start, it has gone 16-2, most recently losing the North 1A championship game to Biggersville 78-68.
"We are pretty resilient," Leatherwood said. "Losing the North championship isn't as rough as another game. We'll bounce back."