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BA basketball sits on pedestal

Coaches often cringe and grimace when the word dynasty ismentioned. A few of them smile confidently. There are goodbasketball programs and then there are outstanding basketballprograms but “please don’t put us on a pedestal.”

Certainly, Brookhaven Academy fits right in with thatoutstanding label. For openers, the Cougars and Lady Cougars aredefending Class AA state tournament champions. That makes them aprime target of every opponent they face.

This season, many teams have tried to beat the Lady Cougars but35 victories and zero losses reflect their flawless level ofsuccess. Close behind, the Cougars are 29-3. Their three losseswere to Class AAA powers Jackson Academy (twice) and Hillcrest.

“I expected us to be a top five team,” said Brookhaven Academygirls coach Barry Gray. In the MPSA poll, his girls are ranked No.1.

Gray hopes they can maintain their ranking the next three weeks.They have won 3 of the last 4 state tournament titles, chalking uptwo straight championships.

“This time of year it boils down to staying out of foul troubleand making our free throws,” said Gray. “That becomes moreimportant as we go along.”

Gray lost starting center Anna Gatlin to graduation and topreserve Angie Davis. They say success feeds off of success, so,just like the doctor ordered, 6-foot junior center KristianDavidson transfers to BA from Wayne Academy.

Opposing coaches wonder aloud…”How did you get her?”

Sort of like ice cream and apple pie, Davidson complimentsveteran guards Lauren Smith, Kelli Byrd and Mallory Logan andforward Jessie Altman in the starting lineup. Altman and reserveguard Amber Beeson are the only seniors on the squad.

Depth could be a problem for the Lady Cougars if foul troubleengulfs the starting quintet during one of the tournament games butright now they are 35-0 and flying high.

Brookhaven Academy boys coach Dale Watts has been pleasantlysurprised with the performance of his young squad. The Cougars lostsix of their top eight players from last year’s state championshipsquad that reached the quarterfinals of the MPSA Overall Tournamentat Mississippi College. In one of the all-time, heart-breakers, theCougars lost a triple-overtime decision to Hillcrest, the eventualtournament champion.

When we first saw the Cougars play this season, they reminded meof a junior varsity team. They looked awfully young and rougharound the edges. Where were all those muscular, veteran stars whohad sparkled so brightly last year? Only two players with muchvarsity experience returned.

Certainly, the Cougars have made steady strides forward underthe direction of Watts.

“We are pleased with our team’s progress,” said Watts. “Theyhave been a little surprising to me. I didn’t know exactly how wellwe would do. Our schedule has been a little tougher this year.”

Alex Davis at center, Jonathan Winborne at guard and LandonMagee at the post are the only seniors on the squad. Magee suffereda severe ankle sprain but he is starting to come back from thatailment, just in time for the state playoffs.

“Landon is still a little rusty and out of time,” said Watts.”We need a lot more strength and muscle at the post especially onthe defensive side.”

Asked about his other seniors, Watts said, “Alex and J.M.(Winborne) have done real well. Alex is our anchor inside,especially on defensive rebounds.”

Winborne can score inside as well as outside. His youngerbrother, Jeremy, starts at guard along with junior playmaker ColeHodges. Key reserves are sophomore center Seth Davis and juniorguard Stewart Sessums.

After sweeping the district title, the next goal for the BAteams is the South State AA Tournament championships at SimpsonAcademy in Mendenhall. After Saturday’s finals, the Cougars andLady Cougars aim for the state title next week at CantonAcademy.

Retired Brookhaven High School principal W.L. Roach has had ascholarship named in his honor by District Seven of the MississippiHigh School Activities Association. He served as secretary ofDistrict Seven for over 50 years.

Four $500 scholarships will be awarded for the first time in the2004-05 school year. They will go to scholar/athletes andspeech/debate champions, male and female, in District Seven, whichincludes 23 schools. There will be two divisions, Class 2A/5A andClass 1A-2A-3A.

“”It’s a way of honoring four of our outstandingstudent/athletes and also a way to pay respect and honor to Mr.Roach for his long service to District Seven,” said districtsecretary Michael Goff of Franklin County. Goff said Roach is 94years old.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz at The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com