/Hattiesburg’s Tigers, the female ones, have come long way once they got the chance

Hattiesburg’s Tigers, the female ones, have come long way once they got the chance

At 6 p.m. Friday at Mississippi Coliseum, the Tigers will play West Jones to win the state championship. Hattiesburg has already won many boys titles and another victory in girls hoops would be a first state championship in girls hoops. The boys were clearly ahead in my hometown, which will be today’s theme. Melyia Grayson (15 years old), a sophomore at 6’2″ and 2 inches, led the Tigers on Tuesday with 18 points, 11 rebounds, two blocked shots, two assists, and two steals. It is hard to believe that in 1970, Hattiesburg was considered too small for girls to play basketball. Basketball was only played in small towns. They played three-on-3 on each side of the court. Your little girls wouldn’t be able to run the entire 94-foot court. I was first exposed to girls basketball when I covered the Petal Panthers in Hattiesburg, across the Leaf River. Anyone who believed that girls were too small to play basketball was wrong. They were a complete surprise to everyone they met. Nancy Easterling, who could’ve played on many boys teams, averaged 40 points per match. All Hattiesburg girls did back then, however, was cheer for the boys. There wasn’t a girls team. Melyia Graham would have been just another girl in Hattiesburg if she had not come with her. Or she would have moved from Hattiesburg to Petal. It seemed strange to me then, I wish I could tell you. It didn’t. It was the way things were. It was just the way it was. This is a relatively recent historical event. Title IX of Education Amendments Act changed Mississippi’s sporting world. Prior to that, women were subject to discrimination in almost every sport. Quick story: It was 1972, just after Title IX was passed. Everyone involved in scholastic athletics was trying to figure it out. For a seminar about Title IX, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare sent someone to University of Southern Mississippi. The Hattiesburg American, which I was working at the time, sent me to USM to cover this seminar. According to HEW, Title IX meant that women would have equal education opportunities as men. This would also apply to sports. Hattiesburg High School and USM would need to provide young women with the same opportunities as young men. They could lose federal funding if they did not. I said it under my breath, “It won’t happen.” The man next to me replied: “Why not?” I explained that athletic departments in Mississippi, high schools and colleges were barely making their budgets. They’ll go bankrupt, I replied. The guy replied, “So what?” “Obviously, you have never had a girl.” He had four. One of them became the starting guard for Hattiesburg High’s first girls basketball squad. She was also a great one. She would have been proud to see the Tigers win on Tuesday afternoon. People frequently ask me about the most significant changes that have occurred in the 50 years I have written about Mississippi sports. It’s a tie between the increasing integration of sports and women’s sports. It’s not surprising that I spent last weekend in Nashville, watching the Mississippi State women, who are the No. The Southeastern Conference Tournament saw the 2 highest ranked women’s college basketball teams play in front of huge crowds. Melyia Grayson will continue to improve her game and may be able to participate in something similar. It should be obvious that Mississippi State did not play its first women’s basketball match until 1974. That year, Hattiesburg High started a girls basketball program. Both have made great strides.