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Union County girls basketball was very popular and successful in the 1970’s, and for Ingomar, it was the play of Janet Doom-Jennings that had the Lady Falcons competing for a state title.
Jennings played for the Lady Falcons during their successful time in the 1970’s, including a state championship in 1972. Playing for Norris Ashley in his early years at Ingomar, Jennings said she learned several life lessons from the long-time head coach.
“He came on the scene early in my high school career,” she explained. “He was very easily embarrassed, and didn’t tolerate any of that, but he was very mannerly and gentlemanly working with us girls. The biggest thing is that he expected us to work just as hard as the boys.”
Jennings noted one experience in particular when the Lady Falcons traveled to Southaven, playing for North Half. Describing the team as being sheltered, she said that Coach Ashley kept the girls grounded and focused despite their excitement to play on such a big stage.
“He taught us so many things,” she said. “Team work was the biggest thing, but also to never give up or play slow. Watch your opponent closely and learn from them. Play fair, but play hard.”
Of course the rivalries within Union County were big, but there was another in particular that was equally as intense, as it also included the two coaches constantly going head-to-head off the court.
“Houlka was one of the biggest games every year,” she said. “We had a good team every year and had success going to state, but it was a tough road to get there having to go against them every year.”
“It was big not only on the court for us, but Coach Ashley and Coach (Guy) McDonald kept it competitive off the court. It was just an exciting rivalry.”
After graduating from Ingomar, Jennings played at Northeast for two years and spent one year as a walk-on at Ole Miss. She later completed her studies in physical education, and she coached for one year at New Site. Settling down into married life, she opted to focus on working as a P.E. instructor, leaving the game of basketball.
“I have a passion working with the little kids,” she sad. “I went into working with P.E. full time, just because I feel strongly for that program. It’s challenging to find ways to keep those kids interested in different activities, and it was something I always loved working with.”
Jennings was able to pass on her athletic ability to her older daughter Jana, who also played for the Lady Falcons, and she also has a younger daughter, who is currently a sophomore at Mississippi State.
“Having gone to and played at Ole Miss, I still remember the day when Casey asked if it was okay to go to State,” she laughed. “She was so nervous, but after she asked, I was relieved that was all she wanted to talk about. I’m a proud parent and have no problem wearing either Ole Miss or MSU.”
Looking at the current state of basketball at Ingomar, Jennings still enjoys keeping up with her former team, and is excited for the possibilities of the program under their new coach, Trent Adair.
“It should be very exciting with the girls having a new coach,” she said. “This should motivate the team, and I hope to see them succeed.”
Jennings is one of many former athletes that have made sports in Union County exciting to watch for decades, and it is people like her and the others I’ve had the chance to speak with this summer that give the current and future athletes something to look up to and accomplishments to strive for in their athletic careers.