By Robert Wilson

       Anthony Carlyle won his sixth MHSAA state championship Thursday night with a 53-43 victory over defending Class 4A state champion Raymond at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.

       But this one was special.

       Carlyle – wearing a red sweatshirt with “The City” written on it – won this one for his hometown, Yazoo City.

       Carlyle came back home in 2018 after winning five state titles (four at Velma Jackson and one in his only season at Columbus) to bring a state championship back to Yazoo City High where they hadn’t won one since 1996 when Carlyle’s father – Archie – coached the Indians to the state championship.

“The other state championships were great. I love those players and the communities, but I always wanted to the same for my own hometown and we were able to do it,” Anthony Carlyle said. “When we took over the program, they were coming off eight wins. We only won nine wins the first year. We continued to build each year, but something seemed to derail us. This year, everything aligned, and we were able to show how far this program has come over the last few years.”

Carlyle put No. 27 on the back of all his players’ practice jerseys because it had been 27 years since the school had won a state championship.

       Carlyle is now one state title behind his father, who won seven state titles in his 39-year high school coaching career. Archie Carlyle won 1,204 games and won three boys state titles (Benton boys in 1985, Yazoo City boys in 1996 and Yazoo County boys in 2006) and four girls state titles (Benton girls in 1982, 1984 and 1987 and Yazoo City in 2009) before retiring in 2014. He was inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame in 2018. Carlyle still lives in Yazoo City.

       “I learned a lot from my dad,” said Anthony Carlyle said. “He taught me how to build a team so that you can still be competitive even in years when you don’t have the talent you want and that starts with hard work, disciple, and fundamentals. When I was an assistant under him, I used to tell him that most coaches have two eyes, but he has a third eye because he used to see things in practice that none of us assistants would see. Everything would look perfect to us, but he would see many mistakes. I always wanted to develop that third eye like him so that I can be able to prepare my teams to compete at a high level like his teams always competed.”

       What Carlyle learned from his dad showed up Thursday night against Raymond, especially on the defensive end. Yazoo City held Raymond scoreless for the first 5 minutes, 44 seconds to set the tone and never trailed in the game. Yazoo City led 11-7 after one quarter, 28-15 at halftime and 39-30 after three quarters. Raymond was only able to get off 15 shots from the field in the first half.

       “We were able to control the game with our defense,” Carlyle said. “That is what we have prided ourselves on all year. Defend and rebound.”

       Junior point guard Damarion Winston led Yazoo City with 16 points (7 of 11 from the field and 1 of 1 from 3-point range), 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Tamarion Hoover, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, had 10 points and five assists.

       “We started out slow,” said Raymond coach Tony Tadlock, who has reached the state championship game in each of the six seasons at Raymond. “We couldn’t really get into a rhythm until the second half. Give credit to Yazoo City. They had a good plan and made enough plays to win.”

       Yazoo City finished with a 30-5 record. Raymond finished with a 27-7 record and played in its seventh consecutive state championship game. The Rangers won the state title in 2017, 2018, 2019 and last season.

       Raymond fell short of its goal to repeat as state champions, but Tadlock praised his team’s success this season.

       “I’m proud of my guys for another outstanding season,” Tadlock said. “We will be a Top 10 team for the seventh straight season. We took a group that lost four senior starters from last year and we lost another key starter at Christmas this year due to injury and we never wavered. Making it to the championship game for the seventh straight year is something I’m very proud of. It’s not easy having the bullseye on your back each year, but these guys always met the challenge. The ones that understand having a program and not just a good team now and then will appreciate that a lot more. We would have loved to win another gold ball. We lost to a team with more experience, brought back multiple starters, it was their tun. That’s life. No excuses to be made. I’d rather get down there each year and have a chance to raise that gold ball than be at home. I can promise you we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We are the standard and I’ll stand on that.”

       Junior guard Keymarius Lewis led Raymond with 15 points. Larry Lee, a 6-7 senior forward, had 12 points and 8 rebounds and EJ Paymon – a 6-9 junior forward and the No. 1 player in the Mississippi in the Class of 2024 by ESPN – had 10 points and 5 rebounds. Both Lewis and Paymon battled foul trouble most of the game.