Jewell becomes Choctaw County girls head basketball coach

Mandy Jewell
Staff Writer

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 2009-13 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.”