/Biggersville wins a double dose of Nirvana — and two gold balls

Biggersville wins a double dose of Nirvana — and two gold balls

Thursday afternoon, Cliff Little, the head coach for both the Biggersville High School Lions boys’ and girls basketball teams, was greeted by a paper airplane. The writer had a novel idea or at least a screenplay. First, Tiny Biggersville, located in the northeast corner, is in Alcorn County in Hill Country. Biggersville is named after its founder, and not for its size. It is one of the smallest communities represented by Mississippi Coliseum. It isn’t even large enough to have its own zip code. These Lions, however, can still play basketball. Biggersville had already won two state championships in a span of just four hours before Thursday nightfall. Two shiny, gold ball trophy trophies will be given to the Lions’ basketball-mad fans. First, the Biggersville girls overcame an 11-point deficit in the third quarter to McEvans High School of Shaw and won a thrilling 56-53 win for the Class 1A state title. After a brief celebration with his girls, and an emotional post-championship interview. A sweaty, teary-eyed Little returned on the floor to coach his boys to victory, 45-37 over H.W. Holly Springs’ Byers High School. It’s hard to decide which celebration was more wild, the boys or the girls. The girls have a slight advantage, likely because it was Biggersville’s first ever girls state championship. Little’s boys won three of the last ten years, and Thursday was their second consecutive win. This is what you need to know: Nearly 400 fans drove nearly four hours to Jackson and began to scream. They screamed even more. Dylan Rousey was one of the standouts on the boys team. He was asked by someone how many people were still in Biggersville on Thursday. After a few seconds of thought, he smiled and said, “I’m guessing none.” This tournament is where dreams are both realized and destroyed every year. This week will end with 36 games, 24 in semifinals, and 12 championship games. It’s almost all the sports equivalent of a passion game — there was so much joy and so little pain. Little, a 43-year-old Biggersville coach knows the tournament well. He is a native of Alcorn County and has been attending the state tournament every year for the past five years. Both his parents were avid players of the game. So did he. He said, “I love basketball.” This tournament is what I love the most. It is so important.” This man can coach. His teams play well-coordinated basketball. They play like they’re playing for their mothers’ lives. Rousey said, “He’s my favorite coach in the state.” He must be able to coach two teams simultaneously and win wins like he does. It’s amazing to me how he manages all of it. He does a great job. I am just glad that he does. Two assistant coaches are available to him. Tracy Stafford is his right-hand man. Jana Little is his wife. There is a lot to it. Cliff and Jana Little first met while Cliff was working as an assistant coach at East Webster High School in Maben. She was the scorekeeper. She was the scorekeeper. The girls from East Webster won North State in February 2007 to qualify for the state tournament. Jana was two months away from her due date when she was diagnosed with toxemia (pregnancy induced hypertension). A doctor advised them that this could be very serious. While East Webster won the state semifinal, the Littles stayed behind. Jana gave birth on March 3, 2007 to a girl weighing one-pound and fifteen-ounces. They named her Lainey Jackson Small. Jackson? They had hoped to go there that night. They loved that place every March. They called her Laineyjack. Cliff Little stated, “You should’ve seen her.” “She would have fit into the palm of mine hand.” The prognosis was dire. It could turn out to be any way, according to doctors. Lainey Jack spent six weeks in hospital her first six weeks. This tournament is all about ecstasy and agony. Cliff Little is an expert on both. Cliff was only allowed to leave the hospital for East Webster’s championship defeat. Now, that’s agony. One year later, Lainey Jack attended the 2008 state championship game against Durant. Now, that’s ecstasy. Skip forward four years to 2012 when Cliff Little coached Biggersville’s girls to the state title game. Lainey Jack, five, was seated next to him on the bench. Biggersville lost to Coldwater on that day. Cliff was better able to put the defeat into perspective when his daughter jumped up and hugged him during his postgame interview. The Little family was treated to a double dose ecstasy on Thursday. This is what made it even more special. Lainey Jackson Little was an eighth grader who is currently playing for the Biggersville Varsity. She was sitting down the bench from Jana Little and Cliff. Although she didn’t play on Thursday, she was a part of the Lions’ semifinal win. She has four more years. Cliff Little was asked by a reporter what it meant for him to share this moment with his wife and daughter. Little tried to answer, but he couldn’t. His voice shook. His eyes moistened. He didn’t have to finish. We knew what we were doing. We knew.