Regional Sports


Spring Fling Musing
By Jim Steele
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. - When you consider that Huntingdon wasn't even expected to make it out of the regionals, getting to be one of the last six teams standing is a pretty good feat.

The Fillies softball team went 1-2 at state tournament play here on Tuesday and Thursday, which may be disappointing to some. But for a team that wasn't even supposed to make it, losing the last game of the season at state is a pretty good consolation prize.

Much like Huntingdon's Filly basketball team from two months ago, this team got on a roll, played well when it counted and was just an eyelash away from reaching the Final Four in softball.

This is a team of overachievers. I was mentioning to HHS principal Steve Perry Tuesday night that this crew of girls reminded me of the pack of guys that went through Dresden 15 years ago.

Dresden had guys like Peanut Winn, John Parker, David Jones, Popeye Jones, Jeff Baker, to name a few. Those guys played all three sports and Dresden managed to go to state in every sports it offered in those days.

In fact, Dresden reached the Class A state football quarterfinals, the Class A basketball semifinals and eventually won the Class A state baseball title.

Former DHS football coach Scott Hewett, noting that Dresden had been to a lot of quarterfinal games before finally breaking through and winning the state baseball title, remarked that "it's time we quit doing all this quartering."

This team has a lot of those qualities. The girls are tenacious, driven, focused and relentless. Just ask Trenton's basketball team or Friendship Christian's softball team.

And a common link through it all seems to be head coach Mike Henson, who is reluctant to take any credit for the success.
"It's all the girls," he likes to say. "I don't have anything to do with it."

The girls have lots to do with it, but Henson is the spoon that stirs the pot and his kids respond. It's a good formula. Sure it's sad to lose, but when people ask these Fillies how they ended their season, they can always say, until the end of time, "oh, we got beat in the state tournament."

Good sports
One of the satisfying things about this job is seeing the evolving sportsmanship and class at work in this county. As I was heading to Southaven for the Spring Fling, I encountered several McKenzie people who asked about my destination. When they learned I was going to see Huntingdon play, all expressed good wishes for the Fillies.

Most McKenzie alum are red and gray all the way. For them, beating Huntingdon is a priority. But it's good to see that people can set aside those differences and pull on the county rope. Fillies, you had a lot of Rebels pulling for you at state.

Meanwhile, it was equally satisfying to hear all the positive remarks made by Huntingdon coaches, fans, administrators and players regarding the mess that McKenzie's girls' softball team endured with its substate game. I didn't hear a single terse word about MHS from the blue and gold crowd.

Lady Rebels, you have a lot of fans in the Mustang and Filly corral.

It just goes to show that the true sportsmanship and class does lie in these parts. That's more than we can say for a select few folks across the Tennessee River. To know that puts chills in my spine.

Media frenzy
At Huntingdon's game with Forrest in the opening round of the Class A state tournament, the Fillies were a big draw with the media. Representatives from the Jackson Sun, WBBJ TV, WREC TV, Tennessee Sports Radio Network, WJJM radio (covering Forrest) and the McKenzie Banner crowded around the field to watch the game.

Where's Magellan?
Some people were wondering why the TSSAA would put a Tennessee state championship event in Mississippi? I wondered the same thing until I ventured to the Greenbrook Complex here in Southaven.

It is an immaculate place. It is fenced in to control the crowd, there are six fields and teams are easily accommodated. Plus the fields are in primo condition.

Besides, it's about a McGwire homer from the Tennessee state line.

Speaking positively about the events in the Bluff City, Memphis has really done a super job with its first foray into Spring Flingdom. I left there with a good feeling and many media folks I spoke to had favorable comments about the facilities and treatment.

I never thought I'd say it, but Memphis deserves a pat on the back for doing something right...for a change.

Lady Rebels Celebrate Successful Season
By Pat Cole
McKenzie's Lady Rebels celebrated a successful season Thursday, May 22 with a banquet at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Coach Randy Thomas praised their efforts leading up to their sub-state appearance in Lewisburg.

Following a delicious catered meal, Coach Thomas gave an overview of the season, noting that of those who made it to the sub-state round, in all classifications, the Lady Rebels had played 11 while five of those who made it to the state tournament had been opponents. Although the Lady Rebels finished at 20-18 for the season, he considered it a success, having returned to the sub-state round after several years.

He thanked members of the On Deck Club who worked to provide extras for the squad, the many parents who provided rides to out of town games, to Bo Carpenter and Victor Clark for their assistance in the fall program and to Coach Herrin, whose wisdom, ability to relate to young ladies, and experience was invaluable throughout the season. He also thanked members of the McKenzie Banner for coverage the girls received this year and anyone whose name he might have missed, by saying he was grateful to everyone who contributed to the girls' season this year.

He called the 2003 season one of adjustments. At the conclusion of the 2002 season, he noted that the coaching staff was complete and there were eight returning starters. By the beginning of the school year however, Mrs. Lori Pearson had taken a job in Jackson and only five of the returning players were to be active.

He introduced each of this year's players, beginning with the freshmen and gave a brief commentary on their abilities, playing positions and value to the 2003 squad. Freshmen included Jalisha Brown, Brooke Cole, Courtney Creasy, Brooke Ridley, and Courtney Wiggins; sophomores were Brittany Carpenter, Carol Perritt and Crystal Mann; juniors were Kayla Bomar and Brittney Russell and seniors were Leah Wallace, Becky Toombs and Kristin Wiggins. He particularly praised the seniors, noting they had been freshmen when he became an assistant and he would miss their experience.

In conclusion, he told the girls they had come within an eyelash of being one of those teams in the Spring Fling in Memphis and the team had come a long way. He urged them to take advantage of every opportunity because they might never get another chance to accomplish the same goals.
Named to the All District Tournament team were Kristin Wiggins, Carol Perritt and Brittany Carpenter.

Melissa Carpenter presented some awards also. Each of the seniors received a tee shirt, a softball on a pedestal and a scrapbook of the last two years. All of the girls received tee shirts. Coaches received a large team photo and tee shirts. She also presented tee shirts and movie theater tickets to various individuals who assisted in some way. All of the girls took home the table centerpieces, which had been personalized for each player.

FCA Rallies to Top Huntingdon at State
Commandos Overcome 6-0 Deficit
By Jim Steele
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. - Wednesday was like one of those tales you hear about a summer day in Oklahoma.

One wakes up, all is right with his or her world. The sun is bright, the weather is mild; then clouds billow and the next thing you know it's gloomy, tempestuous and devastatingly tornadic.

Thursday was such a day for Huntingdon at the Class A state softball tournament. The Fillies were well in control of their game with Friendship Christian Academy through five innings. Huntingdon had amassed a 6-0 lead. Then, like an unstable cold front, FCA struck like lightning and turned a beautiful day into a nightmare. FCA scored two runs in the fifth and five in the sixth to advance and eliminate Huntingdon 7-6.

The Lady Commandos moved on to the Final Four; Huntingdon finished in the top six in the state.

"Give them credit," said Huntingdon coach Mike Henson. "They pecked away at us and we didn't make the plays in the last two innings that we made in the first five."

The Fillies sprinted to an early lead. In the top of the first, Ashlee Porter singled and scored on Brooke Pritchard's triple. Then lefty Jessica Carlton drove in Pritchard with a single to give HHS a 2-0 lead.

In the third, Pritchard drove home Porter, who reached after being plunked, with her second consecutive triple. The Fillies were in control 3-0 and the defense did the job.

With two out in the fifth, Courtney Henson singled to start a rally. Pritchard also cracked a single, setting the table for Carlton. She drove in two runs and reached third on a three-base error. Like she had all state tournament, Holly Newman tacked on another RBI with her single. The Fillies led 6-0.

In the FCA fifth, Lauren Hay, walked, reached third on a fielder's choice and single and scored on a passed ball. Then Tina Wynne added an RBI single to draw the Lady Commandos closer, 6-2.

Then the Fillies' bats went dormant. After a 1-2-3 HHS sixth, Friendship scored two runs on two errors, setting the table for Candace Cross's three-run, inside-the-park homer. FCA took a 7-6 lead and made it stick.

"I thought we played excellent until the sixth, but we had a chance," Henson said. "I thought Crystal (Davidson, senior) pitched pretty well. She had a blister on her finger, but she did well. I think she may have gotten a little tired there in the sixth."

In many respects, it was a tough way to end the season, but a pretty good way, considering few expected the Fillies to be in this position.

"They are so competitive and disappointed that they didn't win this one," said Henson. "But the reality is that we weren't supposed to be here and we finished in the final six of the state. Our attitude changed as the year went on. We never gave up and we kept working."

Pritchard was 3-4 while Porter, Carlton, Courtney Henson and Newman each had a hit.

The Fillies lose two seniors, Holly Newman and Crystal Davidson, both of whom made big plays and came through time and again during the state tournament.

HHS finishes with a 16-12 mark overall.

Other news stories exclusively in the print edition:
  • Fillies Top CAK at State
  • State Tourney Notes
  • Conger Tennis Tournament Announced




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