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Friday, March 18, 2016

Southaven's Jasmine Joyner returns home for NCAA Tournament

From ClarionLedger.com



Jasmine Joyner’s most vivid memory playing basketball in Mississippi occurred three years ago in Jackson. The former Southaven star lost in the Class 4A state championship in four overtimes to Forest Hill, 76-74.

Joyner returns to the Magnolia State as a member of Chattanooga looking to top that memory on an even bigger stage. The 12-seeded Mocs travel to Humphrey Coliseum to play No. 5 Mississippi State at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“When I finally saw that it was at Mississippi State, I was even more excited,” Joyner said.

Joyner’s mom, Jo, called her repeatedly after the selection show on Monday. Joyner’s friends arranged plans to return to campus from spring break early.

They plan to root for both teams.

“It’s going to be a lot,” Joyner said. “They’re going to clap for both teams. It’s kind of like a home team for both (schools). It should be a great crowd.”

Joyner leads Chattanooga averaging 12.9 points and 9.3 rebounds. She also leads the nation averaging four blocks.

The 6-foot-2 junior has 11 double-doubles and has scored a career-high 31 points against Tennessee-Martin and had 21 points and 20 rebounds at Furman.

“She is a very good shot blocker and has become a very good offensive player especially away from the basket,” Chattanooga coach Jim Foster said. “That has been her biggest improvement.”

Joyner faces her toughest test Friday. Chattanooga lists her as a center. Mississippi State starts three players at 6-1 or taller.

Chinwe Okorie at 6-5 and Teaira McCowan at 6-7 have at least a two-inch advantage on any Chattanooga player.

“We just have to focus and play our best game,” Joyner said.

Coach Vic Schaefer was in his first year at Mississippi State when Joyner lost in the state championship. He didn’t spend any time recruiting the Southaven standout in 2013.

He’s well aware of her talent now.

“I’m sure their five-player, Joyner, will be motivated to be back in her home state,” Schaefer said. “It’s a tremendous challenge. It’s a tremendous matchup for us.”

For Joyner, she hopes the return to her home state extends throughout the weekend.

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