Skip to main content

Blue Mountain edges Lumberton 38-36 to clinch 2024 MHSAA Class 1A State Championship

One of the smallest schools in the state stood tall in the 'Big House' and brought home the golden ball

Blue Mountain had never made it to the Mississippi Coliseum for the state basketball tournament, and they may be hard pressed to get back any time soon. 

But the Lady Cougar basketball program will always have Thursday night’s 38-36 win over Lumberton that clinched the 2024 MHSAA Class 1A State Championship.

They'll always have the story of the Foote clan — the trio of sisters A'rare and Beiga and cousin Keyauna, who combined for 32 points — and the crucial contributions of Precious Hall, Ahkeeah Lipsey and Iralyn Rakestraw.

Folks in the Hwy. 45 corridor north of Hickory Flat will be able to recall Keyauna, the reigning Miss Basketball collecting her MVP trophy and the team hoisting the golden ball.

Fans who saw Thursday's game, some who came to Jackson from Ripley, Hickory Flat and other surrounding communities to support the Lady Cougars (29-1), will remember how big every bucket felt in a tight 14-14 first half.

That slow pace was a feature, not a bug, for Lumberton (25-7). The Lady Panthers' game-plan of putting together methodical possessions and keeping Blue Mountain out of the fast break worked for much of the game.

“We definitely wanted to slow the game down as far as when we had the ball in the half court,” Lumberton coach Jay Lofton said. “We had some possessions that lasted 45 seconds. I feel like we executed to a ’T’. We kept the game to within two and had it tied at halftime. I wish we had three more minutes, or one more minute. It’s kind of tough how it ended.”

But when the chips were down at the end, Keyauna Foote made the biggest basket in a season full of them for the Lady Cougars.

With Blue Mountain clinging to a one-point lead and looking to bring the ball in under their own goal, Foote beat her man inside, took the in-bound pass and made a contested layup to run the lead to 38-35 with just under 40 seconds left.

"We felt like that was just an automatic bucket," Blue Mountain coach Regina Chills said. "Key was just taller than everyone else down there and we felt like she was going to make that shot."

It was a fitting end to a frantic final quarter, when the two teams scored 34 total points after combining for 40 in the previous three quarters.

"You gotta know as a player that the other team is going to make a run at some point," Chills said. "You just have to rise up and fight back, find a way to power through."

And that's exactly what the Lady Cougars did, just as they had all season.

"This feels amazing," Keyauna Foote said. "We wanted to make history and we felt like we were going to all season. And now it's done."

A lot of teams talk about how they are a "family." For Blue Mountain, there are no quotation marks necessary.

"Everybody's related," Chills explained. "It's a small town."

And that's a bit of an understatement — Blue Mountain High School is the third-smallest school that competes under the banner of the Mississippi High School Athletics Association behind the Mississippi School for the Blind, the Mississippi School for the Deaf and Piney Woods, a private boarding school.

The athletic program dropped baseball and softball because it didn't have enough players to field teams, opting to compete in track as its only spring sport.

It's girls' basketball program will need to bring several players up from the middle school to replace the departed seniors and compete next year, but Chills said they'll cross that bridge when they get there.

"We're going to celebrate this one for a while," she said, grinning. "We'll worry about that later."