When the Olive Branch High School girls’ basketball team won their second straight state championship on March 7, it was expected they would be celebrated for their accomplishments, and they would receive championship rings they would have as a tangible reminder of a special season.
But, shortly receiving their championship trophy on the floor of The Pavilion at Ole Miss following a dominating 75-51 victory over Clinton that evening in March, the coronavirus outbreak hit and everything shut down. No celebrations, no parade, and no rings.
Rings are not just a given for state champions. They have to be paid for. Just ask other title teams from DeSoto County that have had to fundraise for their rings, such as the 2018 Horn Lake 6A football champs and the 2019 5A boys’ basketball team from Center Hill.
The 2018 Olive Branch boys basketball champions received help for their rings from school alum and Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, who stepped forward and covered the cost of the rings for that squad.
With coronavirus, social distancing, and through the state’s Shelter in Place edicts that have been underway since March, Lady Quistors coach Jason Thompson said the team has not had the usual fundraising opportunities to cover his team’s ring cost.
“I went to social media for us and we did a GoFundMe page as a couple of the parents went and created one,” Thompson said. “We’re still trying to get to the $5,000 mark. We’re still $3,000 away. With the coronavirus, it’s been hard to do what we could have done and get better results, but we’re working within what thought was best and are trying to create something.”
The Lady Quistors of 2019-2020 fashioned a 24-6 record, did not lose a game after Feb. 1, and whose only loss to a Mississippi school was a 62-56 decision to Tupelo on Jan. 28.
Thompson said the team’s success came from its togetherness.
“From start to finish they had a strong togetherness and a sisterhood bond that you could see every day in practice,” Thompson said. “They really cared genuinely, loved being around one another, and loved being on the court together. That’s a valuable skill and asset to have.”
It didn’t hurt that Thompson’s team had a talented player like Endya Buford, who scored 40 points in the title game victory and was named its most valuable player.
“We were very blessed and fortunate to have someone like Endya Buford on our team versus on the opposing team with us trying to figure out how to stop her,” Thompson said. “She was a joy to watch and a phenomenal kid that set a mark that will be hard for people to not remember and lose track of what she has done.”
The GoFundMe page for the Olive Branch girls championship rings is still taking donations. Go to gofundme.com and search “Donations for 2020 State Championship Rings.”
OLE MISS TO RETIRE ELI MANNING’S NUMBER: Ole Miss announced Monday it would be retiring Eli Manning’s number 10 jersey during the upcoming football season. Manning became just the third Rebel football player to have his jersey number retired, after his father Archie’s number 18 and Chucky Mullins’ number 38. The event ceremony is expected to be during the Auburn football game this season. Eli Manning this past NFL season retired after 16 seasons with the New York Giants that included two Super Bowl championships and two Super Bowl MVP awards. With Ole Miss, Manning was a four-year letter winner, a Maxwell Award winner, SEC Offensive Player of the Year award, and was third in voting for the 2003 Heisman Trophy.
BULLDOGS SIGN FOUNTAIN: Former Olive Branch basketball Conquistador Cameron Matthews will be joined in the freshman class at Mississippi State this fall by Derek Fountain, a former standout at Holly Springs. A 6-8 forward, Fountain played at Holly Springs High under Kenzaki Jones and Sylvester Kilgore and signed his National Letter of Intent, MSU reported Monday. Fountain averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds a game this past year at Holly Springs, which reached the MHSAA 3A state semifinals. He was also an all-state pick and district most valuable player.