Picayune’s girls basketball team returns all five starters from last season and shoots for a state championship

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017

After losing only one senior from the season prior, third-year Head Coach Toby Bush and the Lady Tide basketball team hope to improve upon last year’s state tournament appearance.

Last season, Picayune finished with an 11-14 overall record and a 3-3 record in region 7-5A. 

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The Lady Tide earned the No. 2 seed in region 7-5A, but saw its season come to an end after a 52-46 defeat against South Jones High School in the first round of the state tournament.

“Having only one senior on our team last year gave everyone else on the team an opportunity to earn a lot of playing time,” Bush said. “Last year, we had a team that had little experience and this year we don’t have that problem.”

The Lady Tide returns all five starters from last year, starting with senior Camille Culpepper, who is the team’s leading rebounder.

Seniors Alanna Smith and Miracle Banks, the team’s leading scorers, hope to help Picayune earn a region title and a state championship by the end of the season.

“Our goal is to make it to Jackson and to compete for a shot at the state title,” Smith said.

Seniors Aaliah Hathorne and Ashlyn Bell will also look to finish their high school career on a high-note.

“We have shown lots of improvement from last year to this year and everyone is excited to see what we can accomplish on the court,” Bush said.

“We have really good athletes who like to push-up the tempo and pressure the ball. Our post players have stepped up big time so far into the season.”

The Lady Tide currently holds a 2-1 record with victories against Bay High School and D’Iberville High School.

The team fell short of a win against Gulfport High School losing 45-39 on Saturday.

“So far into three games, we have done a pretty good job of mixing the veterans with the rookies and trying to find that winning combination,” Bush said. “Our attitude so far has been great and we have improved greatly on our outside shooting and our ball handling skills.”

Later in the season, the Lady Tide will face potentially tough opponents such as South Jones High School, West Jones High School and Jackson Academy.

“Our schedule is challenging and I designed it that way because I don’t want an undefeated schedule and play little schools,” Bush said. “Having an easy schedule doesn’t prepare you for the region tournament or the state tournament. There will be games where it’s going to be a dog fight and I want that.”

One of the main goals for Bush and the team is to win the region title and  reach the Class 5A state championship game.

Once in the state tournament, teams will have to win five games in order to reach the title game and six to win it all.

“It’s been a while since the girls put a banner on the wall,” Bush said. “Coach Thompson and the boys put a banner on the wall last year, I was really happy for them and I want to do the same for the girl’s team. We want to make history and be the first girl’s basketball team from Picayune High School to reach the state championship.”

Jonirah Pulion, Kylah Walker, Kyra Hathorne, Tailesha Quinn, Shamiah Bridges, Rianna McNeerly, Verranda Holt, Kamari Hall and Kyla Harris round out the rest of the varsity team.

“I’m expecting a lot of great things out of everyone on the team as the season progresses,” Bush said. “We faced a couple of setbacks just like every team, but for the most part, we’re at least a month ahead of where I expected us to be. Everyone holds each other accountable in practice every day and at the end of the day, that’s what will make us better.”