Hattiesburg wins 11th straight game, heads to quarterfinals

By STAN CALDWELL,

Expectations don’t get any higher for a team than they did for the Hattiesburg High girls coming into the 2019-20 season.

 

After winning the Class 5A state championship in 2018 and reaching the 5A semifinals last year, all with a stellar group of players who returned as seniors this season, nothing less than another championship will do.

 

And after a slow start to the season, the Lady Tigers have hit their stride, opening their title run with a workmanlike 54-39 victory over Forest Hill Friday in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs at Watkins Gym.

 

Hattiesburg (22-7 overall) won its 11th straight game and its 16th in the last 17 games. Forest Hill completed its season 11-16.

 

The Lady Tigers advanced to face Brookhaven in the 5A quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. next Saturday at White Coliseum on the campus of Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. The Brookhaven girls advanced by defeating Natchez 79-43 on Friday.

 

“I told this group, our senior group, that they were the most-anticipated class we’ve had here in quite a while,” said longtime Lady Tigers coach Caronica Jackson. “I asked them, what legacy do they want to leave, with all the expectations on them.

 

“After winning a championship as sophomores, do they still have that hunger to get another one this year.”

 

As long as Hattiesburg has Melyia Grayson on the floor, the Lady Tigers’ chances are pretty good. 

 

The 6-foot-3 Southern Miss signee dominated both ends of the floor in the post from start to finish, scoring 18 points and hauling in 15 rebounds, including nine on the defensive end.

 

“Ever since her freshman season, she’s been our bread and butter,” said Jackson. “I’ve talked to my seniors about making sure we go through her, and she’s stepped up for us.”

 

It is no coincidence that Hattiesburg 1-4 start to the season came when Grayson was sidelined with an injury. Once she got back to full speed, the Lady Tigers have just about been unbeatable.

 

Grayson got Hattiesburg started against Forest Hill with a pair of easy shots in the paint, and the Lady Tigers made their first four shots from the field. 

 

Forest Hill hung around for much of the first quarter, though, as HHS missed seven straight field-goal attempts, many of them right under the basket.  

 

However senior point guard Chelsea Ulmer got a putback layup, then Grayson hit a layup to key an 11-2 run to finish the period, capped by sophomore Chloe Thompson’s 3-pointer from the left corner.

 

“I wanted to make sure I shot it well tonight, and when I got the opportunity to drive, I took it,” said Thompson, who finished with 12 points. “Defensively, we started out in a (zone), but then went to a man-to-man and that’s when we slowed the pace down for them.”

 

The Lady Tigers increased their lead in the second quarter, forcing seven of the Lady Patriots’ 13 turnovers in the period, as Hattiesburg built a 14-point lead, while holding Forest Hill to just six points in the quarter and 13 for the first half.

 

“We are generally a zone team, as far as trapping out of our press,” said Jackson. “Based on the scouting report we got, we wanted to see what we did with (the man defense). We could always get back to the zone if it wasn’t working. But it did.”

 

The Lady Patriots used a little flurry midway through the third quarter to make a run at Hattiesburg, trimming the Lady Tigers’ lead to 30-24 on a fast-break basket after a missed shot.

 

But senior reserve Shawnderica Robert drove for a layup and Thompson finished the quarter with two foul shots and a 14-foot jumper to give Hattiesburg a 36-27 lead heading into the final period.

 

Hattiesburg got good work from its backcourt, especially senior Da’Kiyah Lewis, who added 9 points, and senior forward Chaise Stinson contributed 10 points to complement Grayson down low.

 

“Chelsea got into foul trouble early, and that gave Da’Kiyah Lewis an opportunity to step up and take care of the ball more. That’s something we’ll need more of down the stretch. 

 

“I’ve been on (Lewis) about it. She hasn’t had to step up a lot, because she’s playing behind Chelsea, so for her to play as well as she did in this game when Chelsea was out means a lot for us.”  

 

The Lady Patriots made one last run at the Lady Tigers, hitting a 3-point shot to pull within seven, 43-36. But Hattiesburg reeled off 11 unanswered points to pull away for good, getting a putback and a layup from Grayson and a drive to the basket by Stinson.

 

Teanna Howard led Forest Hill with 12 points.

 

The Hattiesburg boys will look to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals on Saturday, hosting Wingfield in a 6 p.m. tipoff at Watkins Gym.

 

For more stories by Stan Caldwell, go to stanmansportsfan.com.

 

Prep Basketball Summary

MHSAA Second Round Playoff

Friday at Watkins Gym

CLASS 5A GIRLS

Hattiesburg 54, Forest Hill 39

Forest Hill        7          6          12        12        –          39

Hattiesburg     16        9          11        18        –          54

FOREST HILL (11-16): Aaliyah Westbrook 9, Teanna Howard 12, Alexis Banks 3, Ayanna Smith 6, Taaliyah McGraw 2, Genae Garner 5, Halie Merrit 2. TOTALS:FG 17-59 (3FG 5-14) FT 0-2 (39).

HATTIESBURG (22-7):Chloe Thompson 12, Chelsea Ulmer 3, Shawnderica Roberts 2, Da’Kiyah Lewis 9, Chaise Stinson 10, Melyia Grayson 18 (15 rebounds). TOTALS:FG 21-52 (3FG 1-5) FT 10-19 (54).

Expectations don’t get any higher for a team than they did for the Hattiesburg High girls coming into the 2019-20 season.

After winning the Class 5A state championship in 2018 and reaching the 5A semifinals last year, all with a stellar group of players who returned as seniors this season, nothing less than another championship will do.

And after a slow start to the season, the Lady Tigers have hit their stride, opening their title run with a workmanlike 54-39 victory over Forest Hill Friday in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs at Watkins Gym.

Hattiesburg (22-7 overall) won its 11th straight game and its 16th in the last 17 games. Forest Hill completed its season 11-16.

The Lady Tigers advanced to face Brookhaven in the 5A quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. next Saturday at White Coliseum on the campus of Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. The Brookhaven girls advanced by defeating Natchez 79-43 on Friday.

“I told this group, our senior group, that they were the most-anticipated class we’ve had here in quite a while,” said longtime Lady Tigers coach Caronica Jackson. “I asked them, what legacy do they want to leave, with all the expectations on them.

“After winning a championship as sophomores, do they still have that hunger to get another one this year.”

As long as Hattiesburg has Melyia Grayson on the floor, the Lady Tigers’ chances are pretty good.

The 6-foot-3 Southern Miss signee dominated both ends of the floor in the post from start to finish, scoring 18 points and hauling in 15 rebounds, including nine on the defensive end.

“Ever since her freshman season, she’s been our bread and butter,” said Jackson. “I’ve talked to my seniors about making sure we go through her, and she’s stepped up for us.”

It is no coincidence that Hattiesburg 1-4 start to the season came when Grayson was sidelined with an injury. Once she got back to full speed, the Lady Tigers have just about been unbeatable.

Grayson got Hattiesburg started against Forest Hill with a pair of easy shots in the paint, and the Lady Tigers made their first four shots from the field.

Forest Hill hung around for much of the first quarter, though, as HHS missed seven straight field-goal attempts, many of them right under the basket. 

However senior point guard Chelsea Ulmer got a putback layup, then Grayson hit a layup to key an 11-2 run to finish the period, capped by sophomore Chloe Thompson’s 3-pointer from the left corner.

“I wanted to make sure I shot it well tonight, and when I got the opportunity to drive, I took it,” said Thompson, who finished with 12 points. “Defensively, we started out in a (zone), but then went to a man-to-man and that’s when we slowed the pace down for them.”

The Lady Tigers increased their lead in the second quarter, forcing seven of the Lady Patriots’ 13 turnovers in the period, as Hattiesburg built a 14-point lead, while holding Forest Hill to just six points in the quarter and 13 for the first half.

“We are generally a zone team, as far as trapping out of our press,” said Jackson. “Based on the scouting report we got, we wanted to see what we did with (the man defense). We could always get back to the zone if it wasn’t working. But it did.”

The Lady Patriots used a little flurry midway through the third quarter to make a run at Hattiesburg, trimming the Lady Tigers’ lead to 30-24 on a fast-break basket after a missed shot.

But senior reserve Shawnderica Robert drove for a layup and Thompson finished the quarter with two foul shots and a 14-foot jumper to give Hattiesburg a 36-27 lead heading into the final period.

Hattiesburg got good work from its backcourt, especially senior Da’Kiyah Lewis, who added 9 points, and senior forward Chaise Stinson contributed 10 points to complement Grayson down low.

“Chelsea got into foul trouble early, and that gave Da’Kiyah Lewis an opportunity to step up and take care of the ball more. That’s something we’ll need more of down the stretch.

“I’ve been on (Lewis) about it. She hasn’t had to step up a lot, because she’s playing behind Chelsea, so for her to play as well as she did in this game when Chelsea was out means a lot for us.” 

The Lady Patriots made one last run at the Lady Tigers, hitting a 3-point shot to pull within seven, 43-36. But Hattiesburg reeled off 11 unanswered points to pull away for good, getting a putback and a layup from Grayson and a drive to the basket by Stinson.

Teanna Howard led Forest Hill with 12 points.

The Hattiesburg boys will look to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals on Saturday, hosting Wingfield in a 6 p.m. tipoff at Watkins Gym.

For more stories by Stan Caldwell, go to stanmansportsfan.com.

Prep Basketball Summary

MHSAA Second Round Playoff

Friday at Watkins Gym

CLASS 5A GIRLS

Hattiesburg 54, Forest Hill 39

Forest Hill 7 6 12 12 – 39

Hattiesburg 16 9 11 18 – 54

FOREST HILL (11-16): Aaliyah Westbrook 9, Teanna Howard 12, Alexis Banks 3, Ayanna Smith 6, Taaliyah McGraw 2, Genae Garner 5, Halie Merrit 2. TOTALS: FG 17-59 (3FG 5-14) FT 0-2 (39).

HATTIESBURG (22-7): Chloe Thompson 12, Chelsea Ulmer 3, Shawnderica Roberts 2, Da’Kiyah Lewis 9, Chaise Stinson 10, Melyia Grayson 18 (15 rebounds). TOTALS: FG 21-52 (3FG 1-5) FT 10-19 (54).

 

Photo via John Austin Arender.