Baysketball

Neighbors face off in state championship

           St. Stanislaus’ Anthony Boswell tries to steal the ball from Bay High’s Daron Bell during the second quarter of their game at Bay High in January.

BAY ST. LOUIS

 Either way the ball bounces, Bay St. Louis will come out a winner.

The Coast city’s two high schools face each other on the hardwood in Jackson tonight for the Class 4-A state championship.

The Bay High Tigers are pitted against the St. Stanislaus Rockachaws, playing each other for the fifth and final time this season. The teams, which have similar offenses and defenses, have split their previous four meetings.

“They’re going to decide who’s best in town and in the state,” said Mayor Les Fillingame.

Although Fillingame’s son graduated from St. Stanislaus, he’ll be pulling for his own alma mater, Bay High.

Only U.S. 90 and about a mile separate the two schools, so as mayor of Bay St. Louis, Fillingame says he’s a winner either way. “It’s a no-lose situation for me,” he said.

Being home to the state’s top two teams has given the community a “spiritual lift,” he said.

“It’s been a good year,” he said. “We are declaring this the year of the champions in Bay St. Louis.”

St. Stanislaus, a private Catholic school for boys, is half the size of Bay High, the city’s public school in the Bay-Waveland School District. The two are both in the 4-A class because they have the same number of boys enrolled.

Bay St. Louis Councilman Jeffrey Reed said it’s unprecedented for two schools from a small town to play each other in a championship. It’s the first shot at the top spot for both teams, but Reed is hoping Bay High brings home the trophy.

A Bay High graduate, Reed’s heart bleeds blue and gold, but he would chant for the Rockachaws if his Tigers weren’t the opposing team. “I’d be rooting for St. Stanislaus,” he said.

He expects a few thousand fans to pack the Big House in Jackson.

“I think it’s going to be a good game, a barn burner,” he said.

Bay resident Morgan Shands has ties to both teams, but is pulling for the Rocks. He’s the sports announcer for St. Stanislaus’ basketball and football games, and his children and wife are all graduates. Shands attributes the teams’ friendly rivalry for getting them both to the championship and admires the friendships that have developed on and off the court.

“These teams could very well ride up together. The problem would be coming back,” he said. “To lose to your biggest rival and some of your best friends would be really tough.”

Shands and his family headed to Jackson on Thursday for the game. He expects the Mississippi Coliseum to be filled with Bay St. Louis residents.

“I don’t know many people that aren’t going,” he said. “It comes down to the state championship for all the marbles.”

By DONNA MELTON – dmelton@sunherald.com
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