Parents of two Olive Branch High School girls’ basketball players are continuing a battle against the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) to have their girls be able to play toward a state title the team appeared to have won last year.
This time, the battle has moved from a basketball court into a courtroom.
Zanita Shipp and Natasha Bailey, parents of the two Olive Branch players, last week filed a lawsuit against the MHSAA with Jan. 29 set as the date to hear the case in a Hinds County Chancery Court room.
Southaven attorney Victoria Washington is representing Shipp, Bailey, and their daughters against the state high school athletics governing body.
Shipp’s daughter is a senior on this year’s Lady Quistors roster and Bailey’s sophomore daughter is also part of the team.
At issue is the MHSAA action last August that removed Olive Branch as the state 6A girls’ basketball champion. The title was later awarded to Starkville, the team the Lady Quistors defeated on the Mississippi Coliseum floor last March by a score of 57-54.
The MHSAA denied the championship to Olive Branch when it learned the Lady Quistors had added an eighth-grader to the roster late in the year and for the postseason, a player later ruled ineligible due to her residency.
In addition to removing the school’s first-ever state girls’ basketball title from Olive Branch, the MHSAA put the team on probation for one year and kept the team from playing in this year’s postseason. It is that part of the issue Shipp and Bailey, along with their daughters, are protesting in the lawsuit.
They seek to have the MHSAA remove the team from probation so it can compete in the 5A playoffs this year by putting a temporary and permanent injunction in place.
Court documents claim the penalties against the high school program are unfair because the ineligible player also played the entire middle school season at Olive Branch Middle School, which was also penalized, but not to the degree of the high school.
They claim it was a failure of school administration at the middle school level to check the player’s eligibility.
It also states the player in question has since transferred to Southaven High School, is ruled eligible and is playing for the varsity Lady Chargers this year.
Shipp and Bailey state the MHSAA action keeps their girls from displaying their basketball skills in front of potential college recruiters in tournament action, especially in the case of Shipp’s daughter, who is in her senior season.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.