If the Biloxi girls basketball team is to stay alive in the hunt for the program’s first state title, it will have to get past a team that’s been flawless on the court this season.
The Lady Indians have the tough task of facing an undefeated Starkville squad at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Class 6A state semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Biloxi (24-9) represents the new kid on the block, making its first postseason trip to Jackson since 1986.
Starkville (30-0) has been here before, reading the state semifinals the last two seasons. The Yellowjackets fell to Horn Lake in 2015 and Murrah in 2016. Both of those teams went on to win state championships.
“They’re undefeated and hungry,” Biloxi coach Devin Hill said. “They’ve been to the semifinals the last two years and have been beat. They feel like this is their year. They’ve been on a magical run with 30 consecutive wins. They’re a tough basketball team.”
The winner of Wednesday’s game will play the winner of Olive Branch-Murrah in the 6A state title game at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Biloxi thumped Tupelo 66-53 on Saturday in the quarterfinals and Starkville gutted out a 35-27 victory over Harrison Central, also on Saturday.
Starkville features size in talent in the frontcourt, including 6-foot-3 senior Kelsey Jones, and a gifted backcourt, including junior guard Jariyah Covington, who scored 18 points against Harrison Central on Saturday.
“They play well at all five positions,” Hill said. “There aren’t many teams like that.
“They’re a versatile team that can beat you inside and out. They can also sit down and defend you in man-to-man defense.”
While Starkville has a loaded roster, Biloxi features a group of players who are playing their best basketball at the right time.
Biloxi senior guard Breanna Riley had one of her best games of the season Saturday night, pouring in 28 points.
“She’s been answering the bell,” Hill said. “If you go back to the Oak Grove game in the second round, she didn’t have a really good offensive game but she got the ball to the next girl. In the game (against Tupelo), she didn’t have to pass as much. She was taking what they gave her. She’s just been sticking to our script. We’re not trying to do more than who we are.”
Biloxi also got a lift Saturday from sophomore forward Shylia McGee, who had 14 points and five rebounds.
“She’s going to end up being a special player,” Hill said. “We’re looking for more consistency from here. She’s been playing well of late.”
It will be up to senior forward Anna Thigpen to contend with Starkville’s large frontcourt and Hill is confident his best post player will be up to the task.
“I think Anna is probably one of the best defenders in the state,” Hill said. “I feel like it’s going to be worth the price of admission to watch (Thigpen and Jones). Anna is not going to back down. I think it’s a good opportunity for Anna to play defensively against a girl that talented.”
While Jones and Covington present significant challenges, Hill knows his team has plenty to worry about across the board against Starkville.
“We have to leave no stones unturned,” Hill said. “We can’t put all our attention on one player. If we stop (Covington), they’ll chunk it in there to the big girl inside. It makes for a tough match-up. They’ve got really good guards and a good post player. We’ve got to be sound defensively.”
Who: Biloxi vs. Starkville
When: 1:30 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Mississippi Coliseum, Jackson