NHS girls hoops gain high acclaim

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 20, 2014

NATCHEZ — Just when it seemed like things were going back to normal, Natchez High School head coach Alphaka Moore and three of her players received further statewide recognition.

The second year head coach was named one of the Clarion Ledger’s top five basketball coach’s in the state after winning the MHSAA Class 5A state championship in March.

Moore said she was honored to be mentioned next to coaches like Booneville High School’s Michael Smith and Itawamba Agriculture High School’s Devin Hill.

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“When people talk about me, I want them to have a positive thing to say,” Moore said. “We just wanted to do well, and to know that the rest of Mississippi held me to such a high standard is amazing.”

The 25-year-old knew their was a lot of skepticism about her leading the Lady Bulldogs before she joined the program in 2012, but she said she used the criticism to fuel her motivation.

“I said I wanted to be the best, and I had to figure out how to do it,” Moore said. “I’m a competitor and I wanted to compete in every aspect. As a coach, you have to prove yourself, but as a young coach you have to prove yourself even more.

“I would watch film for hours to see what (other teams) were doing and what their coach’s mindset was.”

More than her own drive, Moore said her players are a huge part of her success this year.

“They buy into what I say,” she said. “A lot of people think coaching is easy if you have athletes, but you can athletes and them not want to listen to you. But they bought into everything I said. We have gelled together so well this year, it was a group effort.”

The Lady Bulldog’s soaked in the words of wisdom and encouragement from Moore, an several of them have seen the effects of that aside from the state title.

Sophomore center Zyaire Ewing was named to the Clarion Ledger’s third team all-state team thanks to her 26 point, 16 rebound performance against South Jones High School in the championship game.

Ewing had a year most a high school athlete strives for, but the sophomore said her work is far from done.

“I feel good about (making all-state), but at the same time I feel like if I improve myself, I’ll have even higher awards next year.

“We just have to stay humble and not let people get in our heads about how good we are and just keep striving for greatness.”

Ewing said she believes Moore was more than deserving of her top-five coaches honor.

“She does deserve it, because she goes through a lot and to keep the negativity out and stay positive is big,” Ewing said. “She helps us individually get better so we can accomplish our goals. She stayed on us about everything and made us better.”

Also, freshman Kirdis Clark, sophomore Ernesha Chatman along with Ewing were named the all-tournament team.

Moore said Clark and Chatman earned the honor as they both played major roles in the road to the title.

“Clark is that underdog, that rookie who gets after it every day,” Moore said. “You might miss (Chatman) in the books, but she plays such a major role that you can’t overlook her on the court.”

Clark said she would take the accomplishment as fuel for an even more productive 2014-2015 season.

“It’s a good accomplishment for me to be a freshman and be on the all-tournament,” Clark said. “I just have to work harder so that I can make the all-metro, all-district and the all-state team next year.”

Moore said the Lady Bulldogs would get back on the road to repeat a state champion and start spring workouts soon.