MABEN — Shawn Stricklin overcame three first-half fumbles with a 9-yard touchdown run in the closing minute Friday night to lead the Ackerman High School football team to a 14-12 victory against East Webster in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A North Half State playoffs. The victory helped Ackerman (13-0) earn a spot in the North Half State championship game against top-ranked West Bolivar, who defeated defending state champion Baldwyn 13-12, next week.
VERNON, Ala. — Eric “Turbo” Hudson knew it when he saw it. Ider High School quarterback James Blevins’ pass was off and Hudson knew he was in the right spot to get the interception and take the football 78 yards for the touchdown. Hudson’s interception return for a score was just one of the big plays the Lamar County defense made in the fourth quarter Friday night to help it earn a 35-13 victory in the quarterfinals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A playoffs at George Bell Stadium.
LEROY, Ala. –– The Pickens County football team did something Friday night that no other team had accomplished since 2000. Pickens County handed Leroy its first home playoff loss in nine years by dethroning the defending three-time state champion with a 19-12 victory in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A state playoffs. Pickens County (12-1) advances to play at Reeltown in the semifinals, while Leroy (10-3) had its season end with a loss for just the second time in the past five years.
Rachel Hollivay scored 12 points Saturday night to lead the New Hope High School girls basketball team past Aliceville 59-36. Kelli Petty scored nine points for New Hope (2-2). New Hope plays Tishomingo County at 7 p.m. Monday in the Tishomingo County Classic
STARKVILLE — Jarvis Varnado will get a rest from questions about records and blocked shots — at least for a while. The Mississippi State senior center had four blocked shots Saturday night to become the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leader in that category. Varnado also tied for team-high scoring honors with 10 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 67-51 victory against Bethune-Cookman before a crowd of 3,721 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Brenda Frese knows what it’s like to mix and match to find the right rotation. But while Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis is juggling lineups with experienced players, Frese is working from the opposite end. Frese, who is in her eighth season as coach at the University of Maryland, has one of the youngest lineups in Division I. Nine of the 11 players on the Terrapins’ roster are freshmen or sophomores, so Frese said it could take her a little time to find the best mix.
The New Hope High School football team has 11 players in it to win it on defense. Other teams might have faster players or better individual talent, but the Trojans would argue their team chemistry and camaraderie on defense has helped them have one of the best seasons in school history. Seniors Anthony Nelson and Marquise Coleman are two examples of the kind of mentality New Hope has on defense.
Things get tougher for the Noxubee County football team each time it faces Itawamba Agricultural High School. The Tigers’ job gets tougher because each victory extends the team’s streak. Noxubee County has eliminated Itawamba AHS from the playoffs the past two seasons and has won the last four meetings, dating back to 1994.
Heath Hutchins usually visits Arkansas each winter for a time of fun and fellowship with friends. Saturday’s trip to Arkansas will be about business for the Mississippi State junior punter. Mississippi State (4-6, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) needs a victory against the University of Arkansas (11:21 a.m., WCBI) to keep its bowl hopes alive.
STARKVILLE — Two points, two rebounds, two steals, and one assist doesn’t look impressive in a boxscore. But that production is more than enough for Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury when it comes from junior guard Riley Benock. Benock made those “tremendous” contributions Thursday night in 15 minutes off the bench on a sore foot in an 82-67 victory against the University of Southeastern Louisiana at Humphrey Coliseum.
The status of Mississippi State freshman forward Renardo Sidney changed Thursday, but it wasn’t good enough to get him off the bench against the University of Southeastern Louisiana. The NCAA Eligibility Center issued a statement saying the Sidney case went from Not Certified due to Non-Response to Under Review. This change allowed the Eligibility Center staff to restart the process of determining whether Sidney meets NCAA requirements for initial eligibility. Sidney’s attorney Donald Jackson has called the change “insignificant.” He continues to insist this process drags on unnecessarily and the NCAA has failed to come up with a violation.
STARKVILLE — Armelie Lumanu is the perfect player for the 2009-10 Mississippi State women’s basketball team. The senior from Kinshasa, Congo, is adept at slashing to the basket from the wing or rolling off screens to create opportunities for her teammates. The 5-foot-9 guard/forward is equally proficient posting guards up on the block and twisting and turning to get a shot off. Most importantly, Lumanu is comfortable with the basketball in her hands and directing the Lady Bulldogs’ offense.
STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State women’s basketball team received a passing grade from nearly everyone in its first game as a ranked team in six seasons. The only person who wasn’t overwhelmed by No. 25 MSU’s 81-35 victory against Utah Valley University before a crowd of 639 at Humphrey Coliseum was coach Sharon Fanning-Otis.
STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State men’s basketball could have more players in street clothes tonight than dressed out in basketball jerseys. Dee Bost, Elgin Bailey, Shaun Smith, Twany Beckham, and Riley Benock are out or doubtful because of injuries for MSU’s game against Southeastern Louisiana at 7 tonight at Humphrey Coliseum.
MABEN — Ledrick Patterson knew it wasn’t going to be easy taking over for Johnthan Banks at quarterback for the East Webster High School football team. What made it especially tough for Patterson was he had never played the position. He wasn’t even listed as a quarterback on the preseason roster.
Jamayel Smith’s situation in the United Football League is unique. Sure, the former Mississippi State wide receiver believes he belongs there, but as a player with the New York Sentinels in the first-year league, he feels a little out of place.
ABERDEEN — Perry Liles knows the football programs at Charleston and Aberdeen high schools have plenty of similarities. As a former coach at both schools, Liles had plenty of talented players on both teams. He also grew to be accustomed to a hard-charging style of play at each school. Given Charleston and Aberdeen have so many things in common, don’t ask Liles to tell you which team will win at 7 tonight when they meet in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A North Half state semifinal at Lester Miley Stadium.
WEST POINT — Noxubee County and Aberdeen should feel special. The 2009 edition of Mississippi Sports Magazine singled out the Tigers in Class 4A and the Bulldogs in Class 3A as top teams in each classification in its preseason issue. In Class 5A, Pearl and Oxford join Wayne County, West Jones, D’Iberville, and Brookhaven, a team to keep an eye on, were listed as the state’s top teams.
If things go according to plan for Sammy Smith, Michael Hall will play a key role this season in helping the Columbus High School boys basketball team come together. Hall showed again Tuesday night how he can be a ring leader, scoring a game-high 22 points in a 71-44 victory against East Oktibbeha. Chy Cunningham earned game-high scoring honors with 26 points to lead the Columbus High girls to a 62-48 victory against East Oktibbeha.
STARKVILLE -- Raevonne Shoemaker takes her role as goalkeeper seriously. The Starkville High School junior knows she has to be focused on a match at all times and has to know what her teammates are doing on the field. “(Goalkeepers) have to be the strong foundation,” Shoemaker said. Shoemaker has only allowed one goal this season for the Lady Yellow Jackets and has recorded three shutouts, including Tuesday’s 2-0 home victory against New Hope High School.