CATEGORY: Basketball

AUTHOR: TODD

UNION COUNTY TEAMS WIN THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Almost all the 3,500 fans at the Mississippi Coliseum Saturday night were pulling for Myrtle's Elvis Thomas to win his first state championship in 22 years at the Union County school. No one was pulling harder than West Union girls coach Ken Basil.

Basil played for Thomas at Myrtle. Earlier in the night Basil won a state title after his girls beat Walnut 63-42. After the game Basil went over to tell Thomas, "Let's take two."

Thomas completed the Union County double play with a 81-76 win over Durant.

"Kids love him," Basil said before the Myrtle game. "I would have run through a brick wall for him. He has done so much for Union County basketball, it would be nice to see him win it all."

Thomas has a career record of 498-287 and should win number 500 early next year. He said while 500 wins would be great, a state championship would stand in a class by itself.

"Union County has now won three gold balls," said Thomas, whose Myrtle team joins West Union and New Albany as champs. "I don't think many counties have done anything like that."

Keeping up with Joneses

There is a strong argument for Teneeshia Jones of Nettleton as the best all-around female athlete in Northeast Mississippi.

She played a key role on Joe Ferguson's 30-7 squad that wound up the second best in the state in Class 2A. Jones manned second base for Nettleton's state runner-up softball team. And of course Teneeshia is a state champion in track.

Jones said Thursday she is leaning towards accepting a track scholarship at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Cool under fire

Ashland coach Jon Ginn never sweats. No, he doesn't have a slick deodrant commercial. Ginn has found something greater.

Ginn's team and the Walnut girls are two teams that give fans all $8 worth of the floor seat admission price. Walnut's girls have won two games at the state tournament by a total of four points on last-second shots.

Close shaves are nothing new for Ginn and Ashland. Three different players stepped up to hit clutch shots along the Blue Devils' ride to a 2A boys title. Their 73-69 win over a scrappy Booneville team may have been the best played game of the tournament.

Through it all Ginn, in his fifth year at Ashland, is the calm in the storm. He claps encouragement to players and never argues with refs. How does he stay so cool?

"The Lord has given me a calm and peace," Ginn said. "I never forget that, and that is why we prayed in the center of the court after this great victory."

Behind the scenes help

Credit for New Albany's fifth state title and first since Ronald Reagan was in the White House (1987) can go to several sources. Shauwn High with 13 third-quarter points. Matt Koon, Brad Rogers and Torri Jones cleaning up on the boards. Or Napoleon Smith with 17 points for the Bulldogs.

New Albany coach Warner Bradford, who deserves some kudos himself, was quick to name a group of hard workers that might have gone unmentioned.

Carl Foote, Will Henson, Paul Washington, Tanner Allen and Anthony Lipsey all did a good job on the scout team getting New Albany ready for Franklin County.

Todd Vinyard covers high school sports for the Daily Journal.

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