Flashback to the 2005-06 season in girl's high school basketball in the state of Mississippi. The debate, at the time, was which of three teams: Meridian, Murrah and Clinton would come out on top in a talented 5A class. The best of the battles took place between Murrah and Clinton, which are located within 10 miles of each other in central Mississippi. Murrah, led by legendary coach Anna Jackson and Clinton by the extremely talented Felicia Lofton battled each other for supremacy in the capital city area. The teams played a remarkable four times; each team winning twice but with the total difference in all four games being 17 points, it seemed like this might have to come down to a pivotal fifth game if each team could find their way to the 5A state championship game at the "Big House.' That fifth game didn't come to fruition as Murrah lost in the semis to Meridian in a controversial game that still gets the blood boiling if you speak to players and dedicated fans from both sides.
In the background of this team rivalry, there were great things in the works for two players that were pivotal in both team's success: Sophomores LaSondra "Boogie" Barrett of Murrah and Sasha Goodlett of Clinton. Though their roles at the times differed significantly the futures were bright for the both of them. Barrett was a starting post and budding superstar forward for the Lady Mustangs while Goodlett, who was still green from the soccer fields which she had recently departed, was a backup post for the Lady Arrows behind the senior duo of Ryan Herd and Katorra Lewis. In the four matchups, Barrett averaged 17.25 points per game as Goodlett threw in 4.25 per toss-up but this was just the start of three years of good-spirited, hard-fought battles.
Goodlett's sophomore campaign concluded with a championship ring as Barrett stung from the loss of the opportunity for payback after a 44-42 setback in the North State Championship that would've given the Murrah Lady Mustangs a 1 seed going in the Coliseum. From there things swung in the favor or Barrett, who as a sophomore was surrounded by young talent including fellow sophomore Janice Okeke, freshman stars Tanecka Carey and Brandi Simmons, steady handed freshman point guard Sarah Crisler and a formidable back-up freshman center in Kierra Dampier, the younger sister of former Missisippi State great and NBA center Erick. Goodlett on the other hand, made the run with a senior-laden team featuring Herd and Lewis alongside sharpshooter Maranda Anderson and the strong, savvy play of point guard Sheena Johnson.
Entering the starting lineup the following year, Goodlett and the Lady Arrows were preparing to hit the ground running as defending champs until Goodlett broke her foor and missed the first portion of the season, returning in January but still never really getting comfortable. She finished the season averaging 15.2 points paired with 5 rebounds and assists. Putting in heavy work during the offseason, Goodlett went into her senior season on a mission. This was on display early as she nailed a game winning three against Jim Hill during summer league competition. After being named a Dandy Dozen, which is the top twelve players in the state of Mississippi named just before the season starts, Goodlett showed an improved stroke from the free throw line, more variety in her game as she stepped out of the paint showing an ability to knock down jumpers and handle the ball. Goodlett completed her career at Clinton in a controversial loss to Greenville Weston with a 20 point, 13 rebound game before embarking on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta.
Barrett, who during the summer between sophomore and junior seasons started to become a factor on the national recruiting scene, came out of the blocks blazing as a junior kicking the season off with 19 points in a 73-48 victory over a Jackson High team from Louisiana as the Lady Mustangs proceeded to a 37-2 season that concluded with a 5A state championship and a runner-up finish in the Grand Slam which was the tournament of champions that was later discontinued. Barrett proceeded to have an even better senior season that saw her show the ability to knock down the three point shot, put the ball on the floor and handle under pressure. The Lady Mustangs repeated (and made it three in a row the following year) as champions of Class 5A as Barrett averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.0 assists and was named to the McDonald's All-America game, where she scored 4 points and grabbed 7 boards before heading to LSU.
Though neither was named Miss Basketball, which was awarded to April Sykes of Rutgers, they were arguably the most productive players to come out of Mississippi since Juanita Ward in the class of 2005. They went to programs that were at different points: LSU coming off 5 straight visits to the Final Four, was an established competitor at the peak of college women's basketball. Georgia Tech was an up-and-coming program with a fiery coach that desired to get over the hump. After taking their bumps and bruises along they way, in their senior years both accomplished great things.
Barrett showed an irreplaceable ability to do whatever Nikki Caldwell needed her to which led to Barrett averaging 12.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists along with an All-SEC first team nod and a runner-up finish in the SEC Tournament. Goodlett worked hard and improved her conditioning which allowed MaChelle Joseph to play her more minutes which freed Goodlett to average 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and be named to the All-ACC second team (snubbed much???) while leading Tech to it's second ever appearance in the ACC tournament championship game which just slipped out of their grasp.
Although they haven't played each other in three years, the two remain good friends and top level competitors. The hard work and determination put in by each, especially since that first meeting on January 13th, 2006, has led to both being invited to the WNBA draft on April 16th in Bristol, CT; where the two will be competing, although this requires a little bit more relaxation than sweat and defensive footwork, for a chance to be selected in the first round as they begin to step into the next portion of their basketball lives. I'm sure they wouldn't have it any other way.