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Community-driven Mid-Mississippi Challenge stands tall
Posted On:
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
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Staff Writer

There’s a reason that Choctaw County’s Mid-Mississippi Challenge has stood tall for the last 12 years and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The January basketball event has become one of the state’s best basketball showcases and is coming even more highly-regarded after Saturday’s edition.

Gary Beals, the boys coach of the Chargers, has put a lot of time and effort into the one-day extravaganza and is always looking for ways to improve it.

From an all-girls schedule in the past, the Mid-Mississippi Challenge has transformed into boys and girls action. This season they welcomed 11 different schools, six of which had both boys and girls playing games.

To pull off something that big, Beals isn’t the only one doing the leg work. He said the entire town of Ackerman has played a part along with the school.

“It took an entire community to put it together,” Beals said. "We had great sponsors like Crowson Auto World in Louisville and an overall community effort from the booster club down to the students.”

What made this year’s Mid-Mississippi Challenge such a hit was the competitive nature of the games. Almost all of them came down to the wire, which would eventually strain the schedule a bit and put things behind. That was a small setback for what was otherwise a full day of exciting hoops with as good a turnout from fans as ever.

“It was awesome," Beals said. "Probably may be one of the better ones. We’ve had some doozies here with Victoria Vivians scoring 63 against Tupelo and when she and Scott Central played New Albany against Jazz Spears. Fans would sell out those games and then leave. This one was different with good, quality basketball and a packed house in every game.”

For those that didn’t make it, there were also options. This year, Choctaw County provided a live stream on YouTube and had more of a social media presence that Beals said fans from different schools appreciated.

First-year Lady Chargers coach Cory Guyton helped with the event this season for the first time. He was pleased with how everything went after seeing it as a bystander in the past.

“It was a great event for me,” Guyton said. “I’ve seen it in the past as an official, but it’s a different experience in coaching. I loved the atmosphere.”

Guyton’s Choctaw County girls held a lead on Coahoma County for most of the night before relinquishing it late and falling in a heartbreaker. With Region 4-3A starting today at Nettleton, he feels that his 13-6 team got something from the loss.

“I felt we were a little rusty with the layoff and the snow days," Guyton said. "We came out with a lot of energy but we missed 20 free throws and probably had 25 turnovers. We did well over the Christmas holidays and won the East Webster Tournament. That was a confidence booster for us.”

It was the reverse effect for Beals in the boys squad, which started off in a hole against the defending Class 2A State champs of Coahoma before battling back to force overtime just shy of midnight on Saturday.
Battling through an injury or two, Beals is also confident in how his team is ready for district play Tuesday night.

“I thought we played well the second half," Beals said. "A lot of that was getting the rust out. We competed but we haven’t played a game since January 9.  I like our chances to compete in district play. All of the boys teams are pretty equal.”

The Chargers are 10-7 but have a clean slate beginning tonight. They have five-straight road games-three in district play, before coming back home on February 2.


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