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The success of the Lady Hawks lies on the shoulders of a senior class that has some unfinished business and are hungry for a state championship.
Led by Dandy Dozen selection Aspriona Gilbert, four of Myrtle’s five starters share a common denominator; they’ve all been to Jackson and have lost there.
“Falling short makes us want to play that much better,” Gilbert said. “We work that much harder in practice and in games, and it makes us want that championship even more.”
As freshmen, this class made its first appearance in Jackson, falling to McAdams in the state semifinals, and it was that same team that defeated the Lady Hawks in the state title game in 2010. Last season saw a disappointing end, with Myrtle falling to Coldwater in the north half tournament. Overall, this group has won 82 games coming into this season and have grown throughout their high school careers.
“We try to play together as a team so we can make it back to state,” Halle Knowles said. “We know in order to do that, we can’t go out playing as individuals, so we’re working more now as a team.”
“I think we’ve grown a lot as a team over the last couple of years,” Gilbert added. “We’ve really come together, and we are all working toward winning a state title together.”
The duo of Gilbert and Knowles were among the top scorers for the Lady Hawks last season, scoring 22.8 and 11.4 points per game, respectively. Along with them, Jenna Jordan led the team in three pointers made (64) and Kiana Judon hit 23-80 from behind the arc, statistics that make their coach proud.
“They’re a great senior class, and Jenna adds to that,” coach Chris Greer said. “They’re a good group, all starting, that we’ll definitely miss next year, and they work well together.”
On any given night, these girls may look tough, but what most people do not see is the close friendship and fun times had off the court, an aspect that makes this class unique.
“On the floor, we’re mean looking, especially Meshay (Cox),” Gilbert joked, “but off the court we’re just a bunch of sweethearts.”
“They’re definitely a very fun-loving group,” Greer added. “There’s never a dull moment with them; they’re just a lot of fun to be around.”
Several teams stand in Myrtle’s way of its ultimate goal of a state title, including its nemesis in Coldwater, who moves into the Lady Hawks’ division this season. Defending state champion H.W. Byers also poses a threat, both in division play and eventually in the playoffs.
“Not winning state the last three years makes us want to go harder,” Knowles said. “We have competition with Byers and Coldwater and probably Shaw, so it’s not an easy road for us.”
So far this season, the Lady Hawks are 8-0, with its most recent win coming Tuesday night against Holly Springs. Myrtle will open division play against West Union on Jan. 10.