State championship winning Bulldogs continue dominance on the court in offseason
NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School Lady Bulldogs basketball team has transformed into the Miss-Lou Stars, and the student-athletes are they’re taking their talent to the national level.
The newly formed Amateur Athletic Union team will compete in the AAU national tournament in Atlanta in August.
Forming an AAU summer league team wasn’t the plan after the Lady Bulldogs won the MHSAA Class 5A state championship in March, but it didn’t seem like a bad idea when several team members got a call from Katrenia McNeal.
McNeal is the mother of NHS rising sophomore Kirdis Clark, and when she got a last-minute call from a tournament director about putting a team together.
“(The promoter) had some teams drop out and wanted to know if I could get a few ninth graders to compete,” McNeal said. “My daughter just finished her freshman year and I knew she had some friends who would play, and we went into that tournament and won first place.”
The weekend proved to be beneficial for all the players involved.
“We thought it would be good for them to play together (over the summer) and it would hopefully strengthen them as a team for the upcoming season,” McNeal said.
After naming themselves the Miss-Lou Stars, McNeal widened the age division to 17 and under, and nine girls from the high school team were eligible to play.
Rising junior Rashonae Rice said she jumped at the opportunity to play with her teammates again.
“I thought it was a good idea because we already know each other and have chemistry,” Rice said.
The team consists of Clark, Rice, Ernesha Chatman, Taylor Argue, Skylar Morgan, Jasmine Ivory, Destiny Lyles, Asia Carradine and Jhanasia Fleming.
Lady Bulldogs state championship MVP Zyaire Ewing had already committed to playing with an AAU team from Lumberton.
The team’s coaches are Church Marsaw and Charles McMorris.
Without Ewing and graduates Kiana Jones and Marquita Wallace, the Stars still managed to return to a familiar form — a winning one.
After winning first place in May, the Stars competed and placed in two more tournaments.The latest being first place in the Gulf Coast Showdown in Gulfport in June.
That win guaranteed them a bid to the AAU national tournament.
McNeal said she consistently warns the team how different nationals is from playing within the state.
“We showed we are the best in our area, but these teams pick one or two of the best players from all over,” McNeal said. “There will be kids coming from as far as Canada, so it will be a wide array of kids who all desire to play in college. Hopefully, it will push them to work harder.”
The Stars are currently practicing three times a week, working mostly on fundamentals, while still having to report to NHS head coach Alphaka Moore three mornings a week for strength and conditioning.
Rice said it was difficult training with two teams — especially with Moore’s intense conditioning regimen.
“At first it was very hard, running with Moore in the morning then doing all these drills in the evening, but I got used to it,” Rice said.
Rice said she is looking forward to traveling with her teammates and gaining more experience as a player.
She said the Stars wouldn’t go into the tournament with any egos because of their accomplishments during the regular season.
“We put the championship behind us, and we just play every game one at a time,” she said.