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Smith sparks BA Cougars to state title

Craig Smith was a catalyst in Brookhaven Academy’s drive to theClass AA State Tournament championship. Be it offense or defenseSmith was counted on to spark the Cougars.

Smith’s performance during the 2002-03 campaign has earned himMister Basketball honors on the DAILY LEADER’s All-Lincoln CountyBoys Team.

Joining Smith on the Dream Team are Luke Lofton of West Lincoln,Brandon Caston and Dexter Middleton of Brookhaven, Chris Porter ofEnterprise and Jared Britt of Loyd Star. Input for selection of theteam was provided by DL staff members and area coaches.

“It’s an honor to get this award,” said Smith. “I wouldn’t havebeen able to do it without Coach (Dale) Watts and my teammates. Wehave a real strong basketball program.”

Smith, a 6-2 senior guard, averaged 17.2 points, 3.1 assists and3.2 steals per game. He made 39 percent of his 3-point field goalattempts and 61 percent from 2-point range. He also made 73 percentof his free throw attempts.

“I think Craig has matured a lot this year,” said Coach Watts,”and that maturity spread through our team. He’s an excellentshooter who really uses his athletic ability. He can slash and goto the goal. He could rebound against superior height.”

Smith often got an early break from the action as the Cougarsmarched to a 28-0 record before suffering their first loss in theSouth State AA finals. The Cougars regrouped and claimed the statetitle the next week, landing in the Overall Tournament atMississippi College.

In the Overall, Smith produced a dazzling performance in thequarterfinals, a 73-69 triple-overtime loss to Hillcrest Christian.He scored a career-high 35 points and made 3 assists.

His older brother, Chad, is a junior guard at MississippiCollege.

Luke Lofton, a 6-3 senior forward, wasinstrumental in West Lincoln’s march to the Division 7-1ATournament championship. He averaged 20.3 points, 11.8 rebounds,3.6 steals and 3.2 assists per game as the Bears finished 15-9under first-year head coach Lane Young.

“Luke is a really good athlete,” said Young. “He has scored moreon the inside this year. He gets lots of rebounds and scores. He’spretty quick and gets a lot of steals, too.”

Brandon Caston, 5-10 senior guard, served asthe floor leader for Brookhaven’s Panthers, helping them win theDivision 6-4A Tournament and post a 25-6 record. He averaged 12.5points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

“Brandon is our floor leader and he has a great commitment anddesire to win,” said first-year Brookhaven coach Ronald Hines.”He’s a good shooter from 3-point range. He has real high goals andplays with confidence.”

Dexter Middleton, a 6-3 senior guard, averaged11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game for the Panthers as theyadvanced to the state playoffs. He has great leaping ability.

“Dexter has unlimited ability,” said Coach Hines. “He is one ofthe better combo guards in the state. He has the ability to finishabove the rim.”

Chris Porter, a 6-1 senior guard, averaged 20points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game as theEnterprise Yellow Jackets struggled through a major rebuildingyear. They posted a 4-21 worksheet.

“Chris was our leader in scoring and rebounding,” saidEnterprise coach Billy Vaughn. “He was a bright spot in a longseason. He’s a good shooter.”

Jared Britt, 6-foot junior guard, directed theLoyd Star Hornets to a 21-6 record and the semifinals of theDivision 6-2A Tournament. He averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5assists per game.

“Jared is a horse,” said Loyd Star coach Gene Britt. “Herebounds, hustles and plays great defense. As a guard he sees thecourt.”

Britt poured in a season-high 44 points against Hinds AHS,including 7 treys.