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Yawn….BA teams keep on winning

They just keep on winning and winning. Brookhaven Academy’svarsity basketball teams are the juggernaut of the MississippiPrivate School Association this season.

Both undefeated, the Cougars and Lady Cougars are ranked amongthe elite in the MPSA. The flagship basketball program is envied bymany and emulated by others.

Appropriately, the gymnasium is named in honor of John R. Gray,a highly successful basketball coach and longtime headmaster at theschool. Beat Brookhaven Academy in basketball and your team hassomething to brag about.

The tradition runs deep. Here in Lincoln County, a basketballhotbed since games were played on dirt courts over 60 years ago,fans have taken a special interest in the roundball sport.

State championships have been won in an almost-routine fashionby some local teams. Loyd Star, West Lincoln and Bogue Chitto havewon more than a few. Brookhaven won a girls championship in 1984when the Lady Panthers finished 40-0.

On it goes. Brookhaven Academy’s Lady Cougars have won three ofthe last four Class AA state championships. Certainly it feels goodto be a little cocky and be able to back it up, too.

Besides tradition, Brookhaven Academy has a lot of thingsbouncing in its favor. There are plenty of talented players and twooutstanding coaches. Barry Gray directs the girls program and DaleWatts coaches the boys.

Gray and Watts are both wily veterans of the game. They don’tstand around bragging about their success level. No, they just goout and coach and win more games.

Watts, whose boys are unbeaten in 17 games, feature youth andexperience. He has outstanding guards, forwards and post players.It’s a nice mix of seniors and underclassmen. The seven seniorsinclude Craig Smith, Jimmy Latham, Layne Moreton, Cole Smith, AlanOster, Tyler Holland and Trey Waldrop.

Gray’s girls are 25-0 and the defending Class AA state champs.They remain a young team with just two seniors on the squad incenter Anna Gatlin and guard Angie Davis.

To Brookhaven Academy’s credit, they appreciate their basketballcoaches. Gray and Watts still have folks second-guessing their gameplans but that’s part of the job description.

While many basketball programs struggle with annual upheavals inthe coaching staffs, BA remains intact. That’s an advantage if youare a coach trying to maintain a high level of excellence anddiscipline.

Competition is a key factor in keeping the program at a highlevel. Play the best and accept a loss once in a while. That’s justa positive stepping stone for improvement when the state playoffsbegin.

For the Cougars and Lady Cougars, their strongest competition onthe schedule has come from Class AAA Jackson Academy. Anotherchallenger is Hattiesburg Presbyterian Christian, a newcomer on theathletic field. HPC, located in an ideal, populous area, isconsidered a sleeping giant.

The HPC teams played in Gray Gymnasium on Dec. 7 and nearlyauthored some major upsets. The Cougars prevailed by a narrow 45-44margin and the Lady Cougars were forced into overtime beforewinning 53-49.

Guess who the BA teams play Friday night?

HPC finally has its own gymnasium to practice and play in thisseason. In the past, the Bobcats had to beg and borrow area gymsfor home games.

After Friday night’s road test, the next big challenge for BAwill be a return date to Jackson Academy, Jan. 23. Let’s face it,District 4-AA isn’t very strong so BA should breeze through thattournament Feb. 3-8, at Columbia Academy.

Next stop is the South State Tournament at Central Hinds inRaymond, Feb. 11-15. Brookhaven Academy hosts the State AATournament Feb. 18-22. Obviously, the local economy will benefitfrom the influx of basketball fans from across the MagnoliaState.

Hopefully, both BA teams will avoid the upset bug and advance tothe MPSA Overall Tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton, Feb.25-March 1. That coveted Overall title is another goal for Cougarsand Lady Cougars.

Brookhaven Country Club general manager and PGA professionalRonny Ross wants to raise the level of high school golf teams inthis area. That’s why Ross is making the club’s plush 18-holelayout available for high school team members to practice, free ofcharge.

More practice means better golfers. Better golfers become evenbetter and that usually leads to golf scholarships at majorcolleges and universities. Ross is anxious to see these young men(and women) achieve a higher status in competitive golf.

With the availability of such fine facilities, plus the golfknowledge provided by Ross, those diamonds in the rough can bepolished and perfected. Ross said he would like to meet with eachhigh school golf coach during the week to discuss a practiceformat.

I wish I were 14 years old and wanting to improve my golfgame.