By Chris Thomas
The boos were frequent, and the scoring was limited.
But that’s just how Yazoo County drew it up.
Coach Archie Carlyle’s Panthers did the improbable in 2006, when they manufactured a stall-ball performance that derailed heavily favored Holly Springs’ bid for a third straight crown in Class 3A.
Andre Southern’s break-away layup with 9 seconds left sealed Yazoo County’s stunning 24-22 overtime victory – the first boys basketball title in the program’s history. The game remains one of the biggest title-game upsets at the Mississippi Coliseum.
“Holly Springs was a shooter’s team,” said Carlyle, who captured the sixth of his seven championships as a coach that year. “We were averaging about 43 or 44 points per game.
“I knew we couldn’t score enough points to beat them straight up.”
Instead, Carlyle improvised. He met with his assistants, and decided to revisit a tactic his team had executed a number of times that season: Milk the majority of the clock by holding the ball, then play straight up for the final quarter.
Or in this case, Carlyle said, “the last six minutes.”
It was a long shot, considering Holly Springs was ranked second in the state and hadn’t lost a game in more than a year.
But the unconventional strategy, Carlyle said, gave the unranked Panthers their best chance to win.
“We could play with them for a quarter we felt like,” he added. “We wanted to shorten the game. If we would have played four quarters, they would have scored 99.”
The Hawks had a chance to win in regulation, but Dandy Dozen senior Clevin Hannah, who averaged close to 20 points a game that season, missed a jumper from the left baseline. Hannah was held scoreless, a great illustration of how Yazoo’s stall-ball tactics affected Holly Springs’ stars.
“We started to turn the ball over the last two or three minutes when Yazoo went into a press,” former Holly Springs coach Naylond Hayes said. “They stalled the game so long and controlled the ball, when we got it, we were over anxious. “
The Hawks trailed 22-17 in the final minute of overtime, but tied the game with 14 seconds to go on Dandy Dozen Brandon Ayers’ 3-pointer and Antonio Isom’s tip-in.
Even after Southern’s lay-up, Holly Springs could have forced another overtime. But Dennis Hampton, who was shooting for an injured Jemorris Wilkes, missed his first free-throw attempt, then intentionally missed his second before Yazoo County rebounded the ball to cement its place in Mississippi history.
The 46 total points in the game, which was played on March 12, are the fewest in a Boys State final since the MHSAA went to five classes in 1984-85.
“I get asked about it all the time,” Hayes said. “People don’t remember the other two championships we won before that.
“I just tell Archie, ‘That’s pitiful.’ Who holds the ball in a state championship game?”
Neither Hayes nor Carlyle, who were teammates years ago at Tougaloo College, will be on the sidelines at the Coliseum this year. Hayes has retired from coaching after 13 years with Holly Springs. Carlyle, whose son, Anthony, is trying to lead Velma Jackson to its second straight 3A title this season, left Yazoo County High after the 2006 season to return to Yazoo City High School.
The Indians were ineligible for the postseason this year after the Yazoo City School District’s accreditation was pulled in September.
“A lot of times, these things don’t work,” Archie Carlyle said of the Holly Springs game. “But it worked just like we planned. That was the highlight of my coaching career, being able to pull it off on a team like that.”