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And the best boys teams around are …

By Staff
Dec. 24, 2000
Gee, if I had only known ranking the area's girls' high school basketball teams was going to get such a response …
A couple weeks ago, I listed my picks as the area's best among a loaded talent pool of girls.
I had folks call just to chat. Had some call to complain. I even had a couple of coaches who couldn't believe they weren't among my top 10. But the bulk of the response came from folks wanting me to rank the area's boys teams.
Well, I said back then that I needed more time to take in a few contests.
I guess that time is now.
As with the girls, I'll have to apologize to a few teams up front.
I'm sure there are at least a couple of good boys' teams in our coverage area in Alabama there always are but I just can't justify ranking a team I haven't seen.
My apologies also go out to teams like Leake Academy, Kemper Academy, Union and Philadelphia. All those teams have a chance to make a little noise in the postseason, but they didn't crack the final 10. Other near-misses included Louisville, Forest, Noxubee County, West Lauderdale and Enterprise.
No. 10, Bay Springs: OK, so I haven't seen the Bulldogs. But everyone tells me Jason Forte may be the best player in the area, and I know this team had plenty of talent returning.
No. 9, Quitman: So the Panthers have a losing record. They also have two solid athletes in Renaldo McKenzie and David Laphand. And they did beat Mendenhall.
No. 8, Neshoba Central: The Rockets play an ugly brand of basketball. It's called defense. And Neshoba is still the only team to beat a powerhouse South Leake squad this season.
No. 7, Kemper County: Even though the Wildcats are 10-4, I'm putting them here based more on potential. Kemper is just now getting healthy, and don't ever count out Charles Jackson.
No. 6, Newton High: Longtime friend Ed McGowan has the Tigers playing pretty darn well, and he has the folks in Newton pretty excited, as well. Unfortunately, the Tigers are in one of the state's toughest Class 2A division races.
No. 5, Newton County: Johnny Slaughter's team is similar to Kemper County in that I've got the Cougars at No. 5 based on potential as much as results. Newton County is finding a way to win, and if the young kids continue to grow and help Al Willis and Tony Smith, this is a playoff team.
No. 4, Northeast Lauderdale: Who would have thought the Trojans would be this good without Robert Ivy? Fact is, if Lewis Lightsey, Jimmy Kelly and company had more an inside threat, they could really make some noise. Maybe Lightsey can clone Theo Naylor and Marcus Betts into a 6-foot-5 widebody.
No. 3, Heidelberg: The Oilers are one of the most enjoyable teams in the area to watch. And when Ted Williams tells me he's got a chance to go to The Big House, I believe him.
No. 2, Wayne County: Geary Jackson is winning again at his alma mater. I can't say I'm surprised, even if the War Eagles don't look like a 5A team when they run out on the floor. They're producing wins, and they'll only get better.
No. 1, Meridian High: Yes, I'm fully aware the Wildcats have lost twice to Wayne County. But the Cats have won seven straight since, and Jackson will be the first to tell you MHS is a better team with Jeremy Ruffin.
Meridian, regardless of its youth, has too many athletes, too much speed and too much depth to not be ranked tops in the area.
Rocky Higginbotham is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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