It was a championship four years in the making and it is now a championship no more for the Olive Branch girls’ basketball program.
The state title won in March, the first in program history, is being negated after the MHSAA determined Olive Branch played an ineligible player during the 2016-17 season.
“It was brought to our attention that an ineligible player had participated on the Olive Branch girls’ varsity team,” MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said. “Upon investigating we found out that did indeed occur.”
The ineligible player was eighth-grader Taylor Woodhouse, a transfer from Southhaven. Hinton said she was marked ineligible because she resides outside of the Olive Branch school district and did not submit the proper paperwork to transfer.
Playing an ineligible player carries a punishment that includes a restrictive probation for one calendar year (beginning August 17, 2017) and takes away all wins for the 2016-17 season, which includes the state championship. The team will not have any post season opportunities but will still be allowed to play regular season contests for the 2017-18 season. Olive Branch will also be fined $500 due to the participation of Woodhouse.
Woodhouse participated in eight games for coach Jason Thompson’s Olive Branch team.
Thompson said he could not comment on the matter.
Olive Branch parents are already in the process of appealing this ruling, including Taylor’s father, John. They have five days from the time they received the notice of penalty, which was Thursday afternoon. John Taylor said they plan to hire an attorney to help them navigate the situation.
“It’s hurtful to the girls that put the work in to get to this point,” John Taylor said. “It took four years to get the championship done. To punish the girls over an oversight is just highly unfavorable.”