Robert Wilson spent 23 years at The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News as a sportswriter with more than half of those years covering high school sports, mostly in the Metro Jackson area. He helped choose the All-Metro teams in various sports for more than a decade. Wilson has rebirthed this team this year with Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Jackson Boys and Girls Basketball Teams with 20 players and a Coach and Player of the Year on each team. With the help of high school and college coaches, Wilson selected the best players and best coaches for the 2019-2020 season from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.
By Robert Wilson.
Photography by Robert Smith, Chris Todd/Chris Todd Photography and Tim Ward/Pictures Are Ready
Two women from small towns in Rankin County are the winners of the top awards in the first Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All-Metro Jackson Girls Basketball Team.
Puckett senior guard Rose Warren has been named the Player of the Year and first-year Clinton coach Pearlene Fairley, a Pelahatchie native, has been named the Coach of the Year on the team.
The 5-foot-10 Rose almost averaged a triple double, a rare feat in high school girls basketball. The Southern Miss signee averaged 26.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 9.4 assiststhis season. She also averaged 3.4 steals and 2.1 blocked shots. Warren led Puckett to a 28-5 record and the Class 2A semifinals.
Fairley, after getting the job in April of 2019, led Clinton to a 25-5 record and the Class 6A state championship game. Fairley coached eight seasons at her alma mater, Pelahatchie High, and won the Class 1A state championship in 2015 and made to the Girls State Tournament in 2016-2018.
Warren has been playing on the Puckett High School team since the eighth grade and starting since her freshman season. She finished her career with 2,071 points. Warren is believed to be the third leading scorer in Rankin County girlsbasketball history behind East Rankin’s Brooke Rhodes (2,568 from 2007-2010) and Pisgah’s Sharon Evans (2,270 from 1987-91). Warren had a career high of 37 points vs. West Jones as a senior. In four years as a starter, Warren helped Puckett to records of 25-7 as a freshman, 27-3 as a sophomore, 29-4 as a junior and 28-5 as a senior. She averaged 13.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 2.1 steals as a freshman, 15.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 2.1 steals as a sophomore and 20.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 10.2 assists and 3.2 steals as a junior. During her four-year career, Warren averaged nine assists per game.
Warren had 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists in her final high school game, a 73-55 loss to Calhoun City in the Class 2A semifinals. Warren played in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game last week and she had 5 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in 15 minutes.
“Rose is a great ball player, but even a better young lady,” Puckett coach Holly Moncrief said. “She is our floor general and she make us go on and off the court. Rose has amazing court vision. She can create her own shot and get to the basket with ease. I knew in the seventh grade she was going to be special. Rose has definitely exceeded all my expectations.”
Warren started playing basketball when she was little and her mom, Melanie Smith Warren, coached her and her friends in an Upward church league until junior high when she started playing for Puckett. Warren’s mom played college basketball at Wallace (Ala.) State.
“I was not the main scorer in my first two years playing varsity ball, but I always hustled and I could get the ball to the others who could score,” Warren said. “To improve my game, I focused on my outside shot and getting to the rim. When my team needed me to play point guard, my ball handling improved along with my focus on when to pass and when to take the shot. My leadership role evolved over the years, and I think one of the many things I truly improved on is playing under pressure.”
It was Warren’s dream to play at Southern Miss and when Lady Eagles coach Joye Lee-McNelis offered a scholarship Warren gladly accepted. Warren said she had two other Division I offers, Jackson State and North Alabama. She is the second girls basketball player in school history to sign a Division I women’s basketball scholarship.
Warren was also a star for Puckett in volleyball. Her versatility and athletic ability was attractive to Southern Miss.
“Rose has played point guard in high school and we believe that will better prepare her to enjoy success in college,” Lee-McNelis said. “She has had to handle the pressure of very good on-ball defenders while leading her team and being the No. 1 scoring option. She has played in the summer for MTP-Most Want It (AAU team) who has competed against the highest level of competition in tournaments in the southeast. Rose brings the ability to shoot the ball from long range. Her quick release and ability to pass the ball will make her an offensive threat. Rose has developed her game through being a gym rat and her genuine love for the game.”
“I think Rose will fit in great at Southern Miss,” Moncriefsaid. “She is a hard worker and she will be a great asset to their program. She loves to work on her game every chance she gets.”
Fairley was a star player at Pelahatchie High about 20 miles north of Puckett and two decades earlier than Warren. Fairley averaged 18 points per game as a senior and led the Lady Chiefs to a 26-4 record and the second round of the playoffs in 1997. It was one of the best seasons the school had had since winning a state championship in 1968. Then, Fairley played at Hinds Community College and Alabama A&M before taking a job as a coach and teacher at a middle school in Birmingham. She was offered a job closer to home in Rankin County at Northwest Rankin Middle School. After five years at Northwest Rankin, Fairley was offered a chance to go to her alma mater as its high school head coach.
“They had won only four games and lost like 18 and 20 games in each of the past two years before I got there,” Fairley said. “We were 15-17 my first year so we made quite an improvement. We went 8-20 in our second year, 17-11 my third year and then we won the state championship and finished 27-5 in my fourth year (2014-15 season).
The word got out about Fairley’s success and Fairley was looking to take on a new challenge.
“I had an amazing time at Pelahatchie, but after eight years I was ready to move up to the next level,” Fairley said. “I got an opportunity to go to Clinton and compete at Class 6A (replacing Mike Coleman, who is now at St. Aloysius in Vicksburg). We started in June of last year. I had six seniors and we had to get some chemistry going. They had to get used to me, the new coach and I had to earn their trust. We had some good athletes, but we had to get them to play together and form a bond and a sisterhood. I wanted them to be passionate about the game and play up tempo style, offense and defense. We wanted to run and press. My motto was “do the little things right.” We wanted to fight and work hard. Our goal was to get to district and win it.”
Fairley achieved her goal. The Lady Arrows won their first eight games before losing at Brandon 56-55. Clinton lost two of its next three games, to defending 6A state champion Pearl 64-60 and to Meridian, the favorite to win 6A this year, 84-64. The Pearl game was the only loss at home this season. The Meridian game was the turning point for Fairley’s team.
Said Fairley: “The Meridian game really got the girls attention and showed them what we had to do to reach our goals. The girls were determined to get there.”
After losing to Meridian, Clinton won 16 of its next 17 games – the only loss a 61-60 decision at Germantown – during the impressive run. Clinton went 6-0 in regular season district play – sweeping Murrah, Madison Central and Warren Central – then beating Warren Central 67-29 and Murrah 61-35 in the district tournament. The Lady Arrows then defeated Tupelo 58-47, Hernando 78-44 and surprised Meridian 63-51 in the state semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum. Twenty-three of Clinton’s 25 wins were by at least 10 points. Olive Branch defeated Clinton 75-51 in the 6A championship game. Clinton fell one win short of winning its first girls basketball state title since Coach Felicia Lofton won it in 2006.
Fairley’s two leaders this season were seniors Jakyla Johnson and Kim McBride. Johnson, a 5-9 guard who made the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard first team, averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.6 steals and 2.9 assists. McBride, a 5-9 guard who was a second team selection, averaged 13.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals. The duo combined for 30 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals, 4 assists and 4 blocked shots in the state semifinal win over Meridian.
“Coach Fairley pushed everybody on the team to go hard and give our all at all times,” Johnson said. “She saw we had potential and knew we could go a long way. At the beginning of the season, I asked her if I could be her leader because she trusted me and believed that I could help her lead this team to a state championship. Coach Fairley did an awesome job coaching this group of girls. She came in, changed positions and made arrangements for people to come in and work with us. Throughout the season, she was able to change the game plan to get us where we needed to be. A prime example of that was when we got blown out by 20-plus at Meridian, but Coach Fairley was able to point out our and their mistakes that she thought would help us the next time we played them. It worked when we beat them (in the semifinals of the state tournament).”
Madison Booker, Germantown, 6-0, Freshman Guard
Rivers Futral, MRA, 5-8, Senior Guard
Jakayla Johnson, Clinton, 5-9, Senior Guard
Olivia Knight, Pearl, 5-3, Senior Guard
Rose Warren, Puckett, 5-10, Senior Guard
Zykeria Anderson, Raymond, 5-4, Junior Guard
Kim McBride, Clinton, 5-8, Senior Guard
Kennedy Ransom, Madison Central, 6-0, Junior Forward
Helena Roe, Hartfield, 6-3, Senior Forward
Myeisha Scott, Provine, 6-1, Junior Forward
Sharisse Bridges, Callaway, 6-3, Senior Forward
Kynnedi Davis, Pearl, 5-5, Freshman Guard
Alana Rouser, Germantown, 6-0, Eighth-grade Forward
Bryanna Taylor, Terry. 6-0, Senior Forward
Rae Rae York, Clinton Christian, 5-3, Senior Guard
Jamya Blue, Brandon, 5-4, Senior Guard
Mackenzie Carter, Pearl, 5-10, Senior Forward
Mylani Galbreath, Murrah, 5-9, Sophomore Forward
Leah Sutton, Raymond, 5-6, Freshman Guard
Julia Zouboukos, Jackson Prep, 5-10, Senior Forward