Olive Branch High School will not be able to hang a state championship girls basketball banner in its gymnasium after all.
The team on Saturday learned that the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) executive committee has upheld the decision in August that stripped the Lady Quistors of its 6A state championship that it won in March.
The school was forced to forfeit the title won when the Lady Quistors defeated Starkville in come-from-behind fashion, 57-54. Olive Branch will also forfeit games where Taylor Woodhouse, then an eighth-grader attending Olive Branch Middle School, was added to the varsity roster for the team's postseason roster after her middle school season had ended.
Woodhouse was declared ineligible because she lived in Southaven while enrolled in Olive Branch schools. District policies allowed her to do that because her mother is a DeSoto County Schools instructor. MHSAA rules require students to only play for the school in the attendance center they live in.
Contacted by phone Saturday once he learned of the decision, Olive Branch coach Jason Thompson said his team was crushed by the MHSAA decision.
"Our girls came down to show their support," Thompson said about his players, who with him and several parents attended the appeals hearing at MHSAA headquarters in Clinton Thursday morning. "They all had a positive attitude about this."
Because of the decision, there will be no state championship awarded in Class 6A in 2017. The team is also ineligible to be in the playoffs this season, but will be allowed to play a regular season schedule.
Thompson termed the MHSAA decision an injustice to his team.
"Our girls did only everything they were asked to do," Thompson said. "They didn't do anything wrong and nothing malicious was done. The MHSAA is not showing any compassion about this at all."
Thompson also questioned why Woodhouse, declared ineligible as the focus of the MHSAA investigation, has since been able to enroll at Southaven High School and made eligible to play there this season without sitting out a year.
Both Olive Branch boys and girls basketball programs actually played the season last year on disciplinary probation by the association. That was due to a self-reported violation regarding what was termed an illegal practice held in the school gymnasium late in the year and after previous coach Blake Jones had left to take a similar job at Biloxi High School.
Both boys' and girls' programs were sanctioned because they share the same gymnasium and it was that probation that made this penalty harsher on the girls' team.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.