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Thanks to the Super Six, there’s now a shiny, gold ball in Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain coach Regina Chills (left) and Keyauna Foote hoist the Class 1A State Championship trophy. Credit: Keith Warren/MHSAA

For most of this made-for-Hollywood season, the remarkable Blue Mountain girls basketball team has been known as the Super Six. That’s because for most of the season there were only six players, three with the last name of Foote. 

Rick Cleveland

That explains the Six. The Super? The Blue Mountain Cougars brought a 28-1 record into Thursday night’s Class 1A State Championship at Mississippi Coliseum, known as the Big House throughout Mississippi high school basketball. Rarely, if ever, has there been a smaller team in the Big House.

The opponent this night was 26-6 Lumberton, and nothing came easy for Blue Mountain. Nothing ever has for the Cougars, who represent the fourth smallest public school in Mississippi. The three smaller: The Mississippi School for the Deaf, the Mississippi School for the Blind and Piney Woods.

But basketball is big in small schools across northeast Mississippi’s Hill Country, and that’s especially true in Blue Mountain where there aren’t enough boys to field a football team. The school also recently has dropped baseball and softball due to the lack of players.

Keyauna Foote (right) with her proud daddy, Dominique Foote.

“We’re a little school in a little bitty town,” said Dominique Foote, a former Blue Mountain Cougar and proud father of Keyauna Foote, the team’s star player and Miss Basketball for Class 1A.

About 800 folks live in Blue Mountain. There are 66 students – boys and girls, combined – in grades 7 through 12. The Cougars play their home games on a gym floor that is roughly about three-quarters the size of a regulation basketball court. Put it this way: A player with big feet can’t shoot a three-pointer from the corner because the three-point line extends just six inches short of out of bounds.

And even that’s not all that’s small about the Tippah County town about 34 miles northwest of Tupelo about six miles southwest of Ripley, the county seat.

“Nope, we don’t have any traffic lights in Blue Mountain,” said Regina Chills, the team’s coach.

But the town without a traffic light now has one gleaming, gold state championship trophy. Despite many scary moments – and a dogged effort from Lumberton – Blue Mountain prevailed 38-36 in a defensive struggle that turned into an offensive barn-burner in the fourth quarter.

As usual, only the original Super Six played for Blue Mountain, while two more youngsters, promoted from the junior high team late in the season, watched and cheered from the bench. The three Footes, Keyauna and her first cousins A’rare and Beiga, made play after play after play, especially in the fourth quarter.

Keyauna scored 14 points, grabbed seven rounds, blocked two shots and passed out two assists. A’rare scored 11 points and made two steals. Beiga scored seven points and stole the ball three times. So, the three Footes provided 32 of the team’s 39 points.

The bench is a lonely place for the Blue Mountain girls basketball team. Credit: Keith Warren/MHSAA

There were some tense and anxious moments, like when Beiga Foote went down hard after a collision midway through the first quarter and had to leave the game. The Super Six was suddenly down to five. Thankfully, Beiga returned after a short rest to recuperate. Another starter and key player, Ahkeeah Lipsey, drew her fourth foul in the last minute of the third quarter and sat for much of the fourth. But the Cougars kept hustling, kept answering every Lumberton challenge –  and there were plenty of those.

“We’ve done that all season,” Coach Chills said afterward. “Plus this was a championship game. No matter what happens, you have to stay in the game and keep playing.”

Mission accomplished. Baskets were cherished like rare gems through the first three quarters. Blue Mountain led 21-19 heading into the fourth quarter when both teams started scoring almost at will. Keyauna Foote scored three straight baskets to give the Cougars a five-point lead midway through, but Lumberton fired back and kept firing back until Keyauna scored what proved to be the winning basket on an in-bounds play with 20 seconds left.

As is always the case in the Big House this time of the year, a wild celebration ensued. If 866 folks live in Blue Mountain, nearly all were present and dancing in the stands.

Hard to say what comes next for Blue Mountain basketball. Four of the Super Six are seniors and won’t be around next year. This year’s junior high team was winless. 

“What are you going to do?” someone asked Coach Childs.

She held up her hands as if to dismiss the question. “Right now,” she said, “I’m going to go celebrate.”

No doubt, all of Blue Mountain, bursting with pride, will celebrate with her.

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