Saturday, January 23, 2016

Can the unbeatens stay perfect?

From the Commercial Appeal

Central girls

Record: 23-0

The skinny: With future college stars Nina Davis, Aliyaah Whiteside and Danielle Ballard leading the way Central won the AAA state title in 2011, the last Shelby-Metro girls team to do so. This year's team isn't that good yet but it's getting there in a hurry.

Second-year coach Rashad Haynes has his youthful Lady Warriors playing some exciting basketball; has them seventh in the state at 67.6 points per contest and they've gone over 80 four times. And this with one of the youngest rosters in town; leading scorer Miyah Barnes (16.6 ppg.) and 6-4 post player Tijuana Griggs are the only seniors. Sophomores Jireh Washington and Jasmine Carson are both averaging over 11 per contest and freshman Kynadi Kuykendoll is an exciting prospect for the future.

Can they do it?: Probably not, but that doesn't mean these youngsters can't make it to Murfreesboro. Central has already beaten its main rivals in 16-AAA (Overton, Hamilton and White Station) but still has another game with each, starting with Hamilton at home Friday. A matchup against a very good Houston team could loom in the region. At state, Murfreesboro Blackman and all-American guard Crystal Dangerfield will be the team to beat, with schools like Murfreesboro Riverdale, Wilson Central and Morristown West also looming.

With so much young talent, the future at Central is extremely bright. But the present isn't too shabby either.

Olive Branch girls

Record: 20-0

The skinny: With three starters gone from last year's MHSAA 6A state runners-up, it would be understandable if Olive Branch had fallen back a little. Instead, the Lady Quistors may be even better as their No. 11 national ranking in the USA Today poll attests.

Of course when you have Myah Taylor, you're going to win. The Mississippi State commitment -- last year's Best of the Preps and Gatorade state player of the year -- has been simply sensational, averaging 26.7 points, 7.2 assists and 5.8 steals per contest.

But the key to Olive Branch's success has been the development of two very good supporting players. Mahogany Vaught -- a 5-8 sophomore who has been starting since she was an eighth-grader -- contributes 16.5 ppg. while 3-point specialist Savanna Geeslin, who filled the sixth-man role last year -- is chipping in with almost 10 per contest.

Can they do it?: They can. Olive Branch has already knocked off arch-rival Horn Lake once and will have the Eagles at home for the rematch on Feb. 5. And -- on paper at least -- the Quistors look stronger than any other potential state contender. It's shaping up to be a special year.

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