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Hoops tourneys heat up weekend

The basketball season begins heating up before 2003 arrives.Holiday tournaments start the blood flowing today on the locallevel.

Brookhaven’s Panthers, one of the most pleasant surprises of theyoung season, will get their oil checked in the Jackson PublicSchools 22nd Annual Pepsi Holiday Classic. Heavyweights likeLanier, Murrah and Callaway will provide some tough competition inthe boys bracket.

Brookhaven (13-1), under the direction of first-year head coachRonald Hines, tackles the Murrah Mustangs today at 4:30 in theWingfield gymnasium. Win or lose, the Panthers play again Friday,either in the consolation bracket at Wingfield or the championshipbracket at Forest Hill. They’ll face either Wingfield or JeffersonCounty, depending on the outcome of that contest.

Championship finals are Saturday night at 8 p.m.

Four seniors lead the Panthers. They are guards Brandon Castonand Dexter Middleton, forward Mario Flintroy and center LamarHall.

Juniors playing for the Panthers are Scott Pickett, RodneyDaniels, Micah Tanner, Ganeiro Richardson, Phillip Tobias, JasperHall and Jermaine Culver.

Certainly, it can be difficult preparing a team for a holidaytournament. On the other hand, there are no distractions from theacademic side of life. Usually, it’s practice on Christmas Eve andthen play a game a day or two after Christmas.

The Lady Panthers (8-6), led by first-year headcoach Billy Holmes, travel to New Orleans for the Shake & BakeClassic. BHS plays Minden, La., Friday night at 7:45. Sixty teamsare entered.

There are 24 girls teams entered in the Red Division andBrookhaven is the only entry from Mississippi. Finals are Mondayafternoon in the Ponchatrain Center. Win or lose, Brookhaven isguaranteed two games.

According to Holmes, the Classic will feature some outstandingteams. Minden boasts a talented guard who has signed with LouisianaTech.

“(Minden) is very strong,” said Holmes. “We want to work hardand make a good showing.”

The Lady Panthers have been up and down this season as theyadjusted to Holmes and his coaching philosophy. He prefers anintense, man-to-man defense.

The Lady Panthers were expected to enjoy one of their best-everseasons but they have struggled, losing their last three games.Senior point guard Aneidra Stanton quit the team after Brookhaven’sloss to Bogue Chitto on Dec. 16.

Brookhaven has several talented seniors, led by 6-foot centerAyana Tillman who is averaging 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds pergame. Kristian McCray, a 5-11 junior, averages 6.8 ppg and 6.2 rpg.Senior forward Shameka Gilmore has been slowed by a strained rightelbow much of the season. Gilmore, 5-11, averages 4.0 points and5.8 rebounds.

Anna Autman, a 5-11 junior averages 5.4 points and 7.2 reboundsper game. Chiquita Rancifer, Tiffany Watkins, Mandy Vinson, BriannaPatton and Megan Bateman also see a lot of playing time. Brookhavenhas a tall front line. The major key is getting adequate guard playto handle opponents and their pressing defense.

Closer to Lincoln County, the Wesson Invitational tips offFriday and runs through Monday night. Six boys teams and a likenumber of girls teams are entered. Joining Wesson in the tournamentare boys and girls teams from Bogue Chitto, Loyd Star, Enterprise,North Pike and Vicksburg St. Aloysius.

In the girls bracket, Bogue Chitto and North Pike have byesuntil Saturday. In the boys bracket, Loyd Star and North Pike havebyes.

Six games will be played Saturday, beginning with earlyafternoon consolation contests, starting at 1 p.m. Monday night’sfinals are at 7 and 8:15.

Wesson principal Billy O. Britt hopes this tournament will catchon and grow in popularity. Traditionally, Wesson’s major successhas been on the gridiron. Basketball was just a brief respitebetween the end of the regular football season and springpractice.

However, the Cobras have made some positive strides under Brittwho serves as varsity boys basketball coach. Last season forwardRichie Miller signed a basketball scholarship with Copiah-LincolnCommunity College.

The Lady Cobras have lost more than they have won for severalyears, going through a number of coaches. They now have a young,enthusiastic coach in Jemmye Ann Helms and she wants her team tobecome a force in Class 2A. Hopefully, she will accomplish thatgoal.

Brookhaven’s Austin Mills made a good showing in the MississippiJunior Golf Association’s Cup Matches at the Shell Landing GolfClub in Gautier. It was a cold, windy weekend on the Gulf Coast asMills shot a 9-over 81 in the opening round of the age 12-13division. He was paired with South teammate Jonathan Rudolph ofBrandon.

On Sunday, Mills was paired against Freddie Janneck of Madisonand the North. Janneck shot a brilliant 1-under 71, helping theNorth Team win the match and take home the cup.