DeSoto County high school soccer is now at a level it has never been before. The district is now the home of a state championship program.
The Lewisburg boys, which earlier last week claimed the North Half title with a sudden-death overtime win at Germantown (Madison), Saturday won the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) 5A state soccer title with a dramatic 2-1 victory over South Half winner Long Beach at Brandon High School.
Junior Ben Mullins was the hero on offense for the Patriots, which finished the year 18-1-1. Mullins’ two goals, including the championship winner with seven and a half minutes left in the game, gave Lewisburg what it needed to recover from a 1-0 Long Beach lead early in the second half.
“I got right by the defender and I put it over the goalkeeper and it was great,” Mullins said about the eventual game-winning goal, with Ty Greer assisting on both.
“Ben is one of our captains because he is a leader and he doesn’t have to yell to make it happen,” added Lewisburg coach Harl Roehm about Mullins. “When times are tough, this team is full of clutch players and he’s right there at the top of the list and that’s why he is a captain.”
Connor Blake opened the scoring for Long Beach about three-and-a-half minutes into the second half of play, a goal that gave the Bearcats the lead after a scoreless first half of play.
Roehm said his squad actually addressed the possibility they would need to play from behind during a team meeting the day before the final contest.
“We spoke with a sports psychologist the other day and he told us the other team was going to score on us, so we needed to accept that,” said Roehm. “But it was how we reacted to that score that was going to dictate who won the game. It was about keeping our focus, playing our game and not changing our strategy, not changing our personnel.”
The victory marked a first for Lewisburg and for DeSoto County high schools, which had never placed a team into a state title match before, much less take home the coveted “Gold Ball” trophy. The MHSAA has competed for state titles each year since 1989.
Roehm said the title fulfills a promise the program made years ago and also puts Lewisburg into national prominence, he said.
“We started working and we decided this year to quit chasing the trophy and set our sights bigger than a state championship and to prove to everybody that there’s good soccer in Mississippi and they need to quit overlooking us,” said Roehm. “We set our task our national rankings. This is one step on the way to where we want to be, we want to put Lewisburg into a soccer powerhouse.”
MaxPreps has Lewisburg ranked fifth among state soccer programs and 23rd in the country.
For right now, Mullins and the Patriots are happy to be number one for Mississippi in their classification.
“It feels better than I ever thought it would,” Mullins said. “This team is the best in the state and I love this team.”
HUSTLE SWEEPS WEEKEND SET: The Memphis Hustle continued their recent winning ways with a pair of NBA G League basketball victories last weekend, taking down Northern Arizona at the Landers Center 118-89 Friday night, then Saturday traveling to Frisco, Texas and stopping the Texas Legends 115-94.
Friday, the Hustle completed a three-game season sweep of the Suns, winning the last two games by a combined 69 points and Friday fashioned a 36-point lead at one point in the contest.
Dusty Hannahs and Markel Crawford led the Hustle attack with 18 points apiece and Kyle Casey grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.
Saturday in Texas, the Hustle improved to 20-16 for the season with its third straight victory. The victory came in wire-to-wire fashion and Memphis again put together a three-game season series sweep of the Dallas Mavericks’ affiliated team.
Tyler Harvey finished with 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including five-of-nine from three-point range, to go with a game-high seven assists. Dusty Hannahs had 16 of his 18 points in the first half and Tarik Phillip added 17 points to go with eight rebounds.
Entering the week, Memphis remained in sixth place in the Western Conference of the NBA G League but has put two games between itself and the seventh-place team, the Salt Lake City Stars. The three division champions of each conference and the three next-highest finishers make the playoffs.
The Hustle now set their sights on the Iowa Wolves Wednesday night at the Landers Center, starting at 7 p.m.
PREP HOOPS HIGHLIGHTS: DeSoto County high school basketball teams look ahead to tournament action, now that the regular season was completed Friday night.
Among Friday results, Calvin Temple scored 26 points and Kevin Henry added 19 as Center Hill pounded Southaven 111-80. Ken Lewis added 18 and Decorian Payton scored 15 for the Mustangs.
ZyTyrusious Jones scored 12 points and Kareem Thompson added 10 for Horn Lake as the Eagles topped Ashland 88-42. Lake Cormorant defeated Senatobia 65-48, as Marcus James scored 28 and Donovan Sanders added 20 for the Gators.
Elsewhere, Dyer County, Tenn. defeated DeSoto Central 78-61. Hernando beat Lewisburg 71-63 and it was Pontotoc over Magnolia Heights 73-51.
In girls’ play, Nichole Wolfe’s 21 points and 20 points from Nekeyvia McKenzie helped lead Hernando to an easy 97-33 victory over Lewisburg. Dyer County, Tenn. prevailed over DeSoto Central 85-83 in double-overtime, Senatobia stopped Lake Cormorant 68-35 and it was Southaven over Center Hill 46-45.
Washington School outscored Magnolia Heights in MAIS boys soccer 8-0.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.