Jewell takes head coach of Choctaw County girls

Starkville Daily News - - SCORECARD -

This past sea­son proved to be as spe­cial of an ath­letic year that Ack­er­man has wit­nessed in quite some time.

It cer­tainly was the most mem­o­rable year for Choctaw County schools since the con­sol­i­da­tion a few years back and proved that the school can be as suc­cess­ful as any in Class 3A.

Basketball was the sport that had the town buzzing over them all. The boys and girls both won the Class 3A, Re­gion 4 tournament championships and hosted the first two rounds of the state play­offs at Ty Cobb Gym­na­sium. That re­sulted in the teams' first trip to Jackson and the Elite Eight.

Gary Beals is con­tin­u­ing on strong with the boys pro­gram, but the girls team will have some shakeup this sea­son. Af­ter just one sea­son and a 23-11 record, Cory Guy­ton is leav­ing the pro­gram to be­come the head coach at Kosciusko and that left a hole in the pro­gram.

The school moved quickly in fill­ing that hole, how­ever, when they pro­moted as­sis­tant coach Mandy Jewell to take the post and con­tinue the win­ning trend of the Lady Charg­ers. She's been out of the head coach­ing ranks for four sea­sons, but the itch to coach again re­turned and she's happy to be in po­si­tion to help change lives.

“Last year was a great op­por­tu­nity to get back in and re­mem­ber why I en­joyed coach­ing in the first place,” Jewell said. “(Coach­ing) was some­thing that I felt called to go into. There wasn't a lot of pres­sure on me as an as­sis­tant, but it got me back in a rhythm. It was a fun sea­son.”

Jewel coached East Web­ster four sea­sons from 200913 be­fore step­ping away for a spell. As an Ack­er­man grad­u­ate, she had the drive to get back to her roots and also back into the field of teach­ing and coach­ing.

She be­came a crit­i­cal piece for the Lady Charg­ers' run last year and Guy­ton said there couldn't have been a bet­ter op­tion to take over the team he was leav­ing be­hind.

“I don't see a drop off at all with Mandy com­ing in and coach­ing those girls,” Guy­ton said. “She has such a great basketball mind and can re­ally re­late to those play­ers. She was a huge part of what we did last year and she has that head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence so it will be a smooth tran­si­tion.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion felt the same way about Jewell as her fel­low bench mate.

Choctaw County Ath­let­ics Direc­tor Ben Ash­ley ad­mired the run that Guy­ton, Jewell and the girls made last sea­son and called it an in­spi­ra­tion. See­ing Jewel's con­tri­bu­tion, he felt it was an easy choice to pro­mote her and keep the basketball rolling in the right di­rec­tion.

“She's ex­tremely or­ga­nized and that will be her strong suit I think,” Ash­ley said. “The or­ga­ni­za­tion with how she is go­ing to run the pro­gram ev­ery day is some­thing that will be big for our girls. We feel con­fi­dent that she will be suc­cess­ful.”

Match­ing last year's suc­cess or even tak­ing things fur­ther will ul­ti­mately be a chal­lenge in year one. The Lady Charg­ers lost a crit­i­cal piece in Brysa Maxwell and lost other mul­ti­ple-year starters Lakyshia Mitchell and La­iana Cork.

For Jewell, she'll rely heav­ily on her star post player and ju­nior La'Ge­n­e­sis John­son. Af­ter two stand­out sea­sons un­der her belt, John­son will be the cen­ter­piece of the team and tak­ing the next step for­ward is key for her de­vel­op­ment and for the suc­cess of her team­mates.

“We lost a few girls, but the ma­jor­ity are com­ing back," Jewell said. "I know them very well and have good re­la­tion­ship so that's go­ing to be a plus. LaGeni­sis is go­ing to have to step up with Brysa be­ing gone, and she'll need to lead us.”

Get­ting the op­por­tu­nity just to have a chance to put a team together and de­velop them is some­thing that Jewell counts as a blessing. The rust was shaken off last sea­son, now she's ready to take charge and lead Choctaw County back to Jackson again.

“It's been four years since I've been a head coach so I'm ex­cited about it and be­ing in my home­town is an added plus,” Jewell said. “I'm ready to get to work and lead the pro­gram. We're build­ing off of a spe­cial year so the ex­pec­ta­tions are setting in for us.”

Smith, SDN) (Photo by Danny P.

Mandy Jewell has been pro­moted to head coach for the Choctaw County girls basketball team.

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