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NHS’ Moore picked as coach of the year, Ewing player of year

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Alphaka Moore and Zyaire Ewing are this year’s All-Metro coach and player of the year for girls basketball in the Miss-Lou.  Coach Moore and Ewing helped lead the Natchez High School Lady Bulldogs to the MHSAA Class 5A state championship.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Alphaka Moore and Zyaire Ewing are this year’s All-Metro coach and player of the year for girls basketball in the Miss-Lou. Coach Moore and Ewing helped lead the Natchez High School Lady Bulldogs to the MHSAA Class 5A state championship.

NATCHEZ — With a championship trophy sitting in the locker room, Natchez High School head coach Alphaka Moore still can’t believe the Lady Bulldogs had such an amazing season.

In two years as head coach, Moore molded the Lady Bulldogs (28-2) into three-time champions winning the district, south state and state championships.

Natchez High beat South Jones High School in the south state championship game 34-30, and in the state championship 54-51.

Sophomore center Zyaire Ewing scored 26 points and 16 rebounds to earn the Most Valuable Player honor in the game.

Ewing’s prolific performances all season long and Moore’s leadership and wisdom is what earned them All-Metro player and coach of the year.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Moore said. “I don’t think it will ever feel real until we win another title. To do all of that in the same year is nothing more than a blessing.”

Moore was able to take a group of young players, and show them how to compete at the highest level, and the hardest workouts the Lady Bulldogs ever faced benefitted them in the long run.

“Our practices are the hardest, they are harder than the games,” Moore said. “Sometimes they have to reach that breaking point, so that in a big game, they’ve been at that breaking point. When they get in the game and get down by seven points, they know what it takes to get back in it and they know they have to stay calm.”

Though Natchez High is an aggressive, fast-paced team, their on-the-court attitude is nonchalant, which worked in their favor during the many down-to-the-wire games it has faced.

Ewing is the epitome of stoic on and off the court, and as leader, her ability to not be easily rattled kept her teammates together in big situations.

Ewing kept her composure though the Lady Bulldogs were down 51-50 in the championship game with 1:15 remaining in regulation.

Ewing didn’t panic, instead, she continued to take the game into her own hands. Ewing led Natchez High to win the championship.

Though the championship game was her most productive performance to date, it wasn’t sudden. The center averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks a game throughout the season.

Moore said she saw something in Ewing when she met her before Ewing’s freshman year.

“She had a really strong body build and she is humble, quiet yet takes care of business,” Moore said. “She’s hard working, and she wants to do well and it shows on the floor.”

Ewing said she likes the type of coach Moore is, and what Moore has developed her to be.

“She will tell me what I’m doing wrong and right, and I just listened to what she said,” Ewing said. “She’s a very good coach with how much she pushed us and made us run to get our minds ready. When we first started it I felt like I couldn’t do it, but we pushed ourselves and it became easier.”

Ewing said the successful season motivates her to have an even more dynamic junior year.

“I watch (the championship game) over and over again, it was one of the best nights of my life,” Ewing said. “I want to be able to (play like I did in the championship) every night, I just have to work on my weaknesses this summer like playing defense, not drawing fouls and playing smart.”

Moore and the Lady Bulldogs visited the Mississippi House of Representatives in Jackson Tuesday to be recognized for their championship win.