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Local basketball teams make early exit from playoffs

Remarkably, there are no Lincoln County-based basketball teamsadvancing to next week’s MHSAA state tournament in Jackson.Brookhaven, Loyd Star, West Lincoln and Bogue Chitto all felt thesting of defeat in the opening round of the South Mississippiplayoffs.

Dreams were shattered and lots of folks went home disappointed.There was an abundance of crying towels in the respective dressingrooms.

On the bright side, Brookhaven Academy is still going strong.The Cougars and Lady Cougars, coached by DaleWatts and Barry Gray respectively, wontheir opening round games Wednesday night in the AA StateTournament, landing them in Friday’s semifinals. Win or lose,they’ll play again Saturday in John R. Gray Gymnasium, either inthe consolation or championship games.

Barry’s older brother, Ricky Gray, has coachedthe Adams County Christian School Rebels to the AAA StateTournament in his first year at the helm. The Rebels upset JacksonPrep last week in the South State tourney.

To be honest, this column saw the demise of local basketballhopes coming, early in the season, like the light at the end of atunnel. That’s not a flashlight, it’s a locomotive.

It was clearly evident this year. Many basketball players arespending a lot less time shooting at the goal. There are a handfulof devoted sharpshooters around but the majority are spending moretime on the boulevard chasing girls or chasing boys.

“The only time they shoot at a goal is when they come in thegym,” said one veteran coach, discussing his team’s diminishedbasketball skills.

Certainly, the average athlete is stronger, taller and quickerthan say, 30 years ago. But the shooting skills have dramaticallydeclined. If you are keeping score, consider some of the scoresthis season. Some boys teams couldn’t score 40 points in a game.Some girls teams often had a final score in the 20s.

Free throw shooting, that simple, fundamental, all-importantshot, befuddled many a talented and muscular athlete, especiallyunder pressure.

Should we blame the coaches?

Should we blame the parents?

How about the NBA?

Most of these NBA games have become indoor track meets. It’s awide-open foot race from one end of the court to the other. Then itbecomes a dunkathon.

Whoever provides the most theatric dunk becomes a superstar.Whatever became of the precision pass, the delicate shootingtouch?

There are a few shooting wizards left but they are oftenovershadowed by the dunkasaurs. In the past we have often wishedaloud for a change in the standard basketball goal.

Players are taller and they naturally jump higher. Raise thegoals from 10 feet to 12 feet. Make players learn how to shootagain. Use the glass for those bank-shot jumpers.

Obviously, the results would be catastrophic. Seven-footers whohave prospered and become wealthy millionaires due to the dunkwould be in the unemployment line.

Reason for losing job?

“I couldn’t shoot the basketball good enough.”

Obviously, Democrats would scream for a return to the 10-footgoal. The senate would be filled with debates. ESPN would have afield day discussing the pluses and negatives of a higher goal.

Conservatives would push for maintaining the 12-foot goal. “It’sfor the good of the sport.”

Liberals would picket and protest loudly. Some fanatics wouldwant to lower the goal to eight feet. “Everyone should be able todunk!”

Shorter folks would ask for a 6-foot goal. “We have the right todream, too.”

There could be an alternative basketball league. Put six playerson a team, three males and three females. This format could spawnan international league of gigantic proportions.

Meanwhile, yours truly would go dribbling off into the sunset,looking for his favorite golf course.

Spring fever has arrived.

Brookhaven’s Panthers begin their baseball season Saturday atHattiesburg. The Panthers, coached by RandySpring, return home to host Raymond Tuesday night.

The Lady Panthers, coached by Eric Stokes,launch their fastpitch campaign Monday, Feb. 24, hosting Loyd Starat the Hansel King Sportsplex.

The Co-Lin Lady Wolves begin their fastpitch softball seasontoday on Co-Lin’s Wesson campus. Allen Kent makes his headcoaching debut as Co-Lin entertains Hinds for a 1 p.m.twinbill.

Brookhaven Academy, coached by Ron Rushing, launches itsdiamond season Feb. 24-28, in the Amite School Center Tournament atLiberty.

Registration for Dixie Youth and Dixie Boys Baseball Leagues inLincoln County is under way for the 2003 season. Registrationdeadline is March 16.

Age groups are 7-8 for AA (Buddy Ball), 9-10 AAA and 11-12 forMajors. Dixie Boys ages are 13-14.

Registration forms are available at Randy’s Sports. The fee is$75 for each player under 12 years of age and it includes theuniform; socks, pants, belt, shirt and cap. Age 13-14 is $100 perplayer.

Weldon Smith is president of Brookhaven YouthSports. Smith said teams would begin practice March 25 and theDixie Youth seasons would begin April 7. Smith said 436 youngstersparticipated in the league last year.

Smith also said some team sponsors are needed. Sponsorships are$300 and it certainly goes to a worthy cause.