Heading into the Christmas break, West Jones is perfect on the season in girls basketball. Only one other team in the immediate area is without a loss on the season thus far. County and Region 5-5A rivals South Jones are holding steady at 12-0. Both are set to begin region play on Jan. 4th, squaring off against each other in Ellisville.
“It’s hard to get ready for region play,” said West Jones head coach Sharon Murray. “Some of the best teams are in our region, and they are our rival games. You don’t know what’s going to happen on a given night that you play.”
Before that day comes though, Murray said some areas need to be addressed.
“We have to clean up our rebounding and blocking out,” said Murray. “Communication on the floor needs some work, too. We have to communicate defensively.
“Our focus, though, is on ourselves. You try not to focus on other teams as much and focus on getting better as we go along.”
As it currently stands, three Lady Mustangs score in double-digits through 13 games. Junior guard Brikayla Gray leads the way with 16.8 PPG (Points Per Game). Senior Jurnee McLaurin and Briana Carr fall in second and third with 15.3 and 10.3, respectively.
“We have three girls in double-digits and a fourth that’s not far behind,” Murray said. “Those girls give us a lot of offense. Our goal, though, is to build chemistry among our players.
“Towards the end of last season, I thought our girls had a lot of chemistry. Right now as we play every game, we’re trying to improve on our chemistry and half-court offense. We’re getting better every game, but our focus is on playing as a team. We have to be patient.”
A fourth member of the Lady Mustangs, senior Mia Moore, is not far behind Gray, McLaurin and Carr with 8.8 PPG. Her main contribution to the team though is in rebounds. She is currently second on the team in rebounds with 86.
“Moore has good hands,” said Murray. “She can clean things up with her hands. She has a nice touch inside for us.
“Moore is feeling her way through right now. It’s her first year here with us. But she’s definitely helping us.”
Girls basketball at West Jones, especially in the last several years, has been known for its team speed. This year the makeup is a little different.
“At times we have speed, but this year we’re trying to run our half-court game,” said Murray. “We’re not trying to rely on speed as much as we have in the past, mainly because we don’t have as many quick players as I normally have. So we try to slow [the game] down when we can. If we can fast break some, then we still like to do that, but we try to control and pace it. We have some speed, but we want to run our half-court stuff too.”
Of the Lady Mustangs’ 13 wins thus far, none have been relatively close, or to say, within single digits. Murray says solid defense has been the key.
“I think we’re solid defensively,” said Murray. “I’m a defensive minded coach, so I like to focus on defense. And being able to score helps also.
“I say being good defensively gives us more opportunities to score. You have to defend well to compete and win state championships. To make it to the Coliseum, you have to be able to stop teams from scoring. So we are sure to focus on that as well as having a good offense.”
West Jones suffered a heartbreaking loss in the Class 5A State Championship game last season versus Hattiesburg. The Lady Mustangs are hoping to make the trip back and thus far are making the case as one of the South’s best 5A team at 13-0.