Sunday, March 16, 2014

Elated Horn Lake girls basketball coach 'couldn't ask anything more'

 Image and article from Commercial Appeal

One could say Janna Thompson’s Horn Lake squad gave their coach a belated wedding present Saturday night. A year of happiness, harmony — and no one-upsmanship — in her new home.

The Eagles completed a near-perfect season with a nearly perfect performance, routing a young, hobbled Olive Branch squad 74-39 for the Girls Class 6A basketball title at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Led by seniors Olivia Cunningham, A’Queen Hayes and Erica Toney, Horn Lake (29-1) put its foot on the jugular of this game with a 41-15 halftime lead, and never let go.

Cunningham, headed to Murray State, had 10 points by halftime while Ole Miss signee Hayes added nine. Both transferred this year to Horn Lake after leading Southaven to last year’s state finals. Hayes got into foul trouble in Saturday’s second half, but Cunningham finished with 19, and senior Erica Toney chipped in 12.

“I couldn’t ask anything more than what this group of girls gave me,” Thompson said after Horn Lake won the state title for the second time in her tenure as coach. “We’ve learned if we stay back, we get into trouble. This team is better when it’s attacking.”

It completed a remarkable week for Thompson and her husband Jason. On Thursday, his H.W. Byers High School team took the Class 2A title back home to Holly Springs, the sixth Jason Thompson has coached them to in seven years (three in 2A, three in Class 1A).

The Thompsons, married last May, met in 2011, the year after Byers missed winning the state title and Horn Lake had claimed their first title. Janna told him at the time that she was “the missing piece to his puzzle.”

But to add state titles No. 7 and 8 to the collection as a matched set? “For me that’s a dream that’s almost too good to be true,” she said. That it ensures harmony at all family get-togethers for a year is an added bonus.

Olive Branch (27-7) had a storybook ride to the finals behind a pair of guards barely past storybooks, freshman point guard Myah Taylor and eighth-grader Mahogany Vaught. But point guard Taylor, who has already received scholarship offers from Mississippi State and Southern Miss, suffered a hairline fracture in her leg during Wednesday’s semifinal win over Harrison Central. She tried to warm up Saturday, and coach Blake Jones let her play one minute “just so she could say she got into the game.”

Vaught, normally a shooting guard, and 5-4 senior Dominique Baker couldn’t beat the relentless Horn Lake pressure, though Baker scored 17 points, including 7-of-10 free throws and a pair of three-pointers.

“All things considered, they did a great job, but when you’ve got an eighth grader playing two D-1 talents, it’s going to be tough,” said Jones, whose squad handed Horn Lake its only loss in January.

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