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MC’s Choctaws tip off second season

After a banner campaign, it’s a whole new ballgame for theMississippi College Choctaws. In other words, throw out the recordbooks because it’s tournament time.

The American Southwest Conference Men’s Tournament tips offFriday in MC’s A.E. Wood Coliseum. The Chocs, under the directionof Brookhaven native Don Lofton, are the No. 1 seeds out of the ASCEast. They play Mary Hardin-Baylor tomorrow at 6 p.m.

Basically, Lofton had to rebuild the team with freshmen andjunior college transfers. The chemistry, mixed carefully, hasbecome a strong potion, winning another ASC East title, the seventhtime. The Chocs are ranked No. 1 in the South region of NCAADivision III teams.

Forget about MC’s 21-3 record. Lofton’s first concern is beatingHardin-Baylor. “They are the hottest team in our conference.They’ve won five games in a row. We beat them by 10 (points) hereearlier in the season but they have changed their lineup.”

Lofton’s overhauled squad has been a pleasant surprise. “Ourguys have played well. Good players help coaches look good. Thereis a lot of balance.”

Tyler Winford, a 6-foot-5 freshman forward from Jackson Academy,is MC’s leading scorer. He averages

12.5 points per game, the only Choc in double digits.

A transfer, 6-6 Lonnie Vasquez of Norco, La.,, played at DelgadoCommunity College. He averages 9 points and 6 rebounds coming offthe bench.

For good reason, Lofton already is excited about next year’sprospects. Point guard Jason Walker is the only senior on MC’steam. From Vicksburg and Hinds Community College, Walker was abackup point last year.

“The strength of our team is probably our depth,” said Lofton.”We play a lot of guys. Someone different has carried us everynight. They can all score on a given night.”

Another strength: “One of the biggest keys to our success is ourdefense,” said Lofton. “We’ve held opponents to 40 percentshooting.”

MC has led the conference in defensive stats and rebounding mostof the year. The Chocs rebound and guard well.

Lofton’s crew won the ASC Tournament two years ago and gained anautomatic bid to the NCAA Division III dance. The ASC champion isguaranteed an automatic bid

If the Choctaws get past Hardin-Baylor again, they’ll play thewinner of Hardin-Simmons and Ozark Saturday at 4 in the semifinals.The championship is Sunday afternoon.

Tomorrow’s opening round menu features McMurray, the No. 1 seedfrom the West, playing No. 4 East: Dallas. At 2 p.m., No. 2 East:Texas Baptist, vs. No. 3 West: Sul Ross State, followed by MC No. 1vs. No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor.

The Final game is at 8, sending No. 2 West: Hardin-Simmonsagainst No. 3 East: Ozark. This is the first year to have eightteams in the tournament.

Last year, MC lost to Sul Ross by three points in the titlegame. Sul Ross advanced and made the Sweet 16 in Division III. Twoyears ago, MC won the tournament and went to Maryville, Tenn. forthe NCAA’s opening round.

Obviously, MC’s fans are optimistic. So are Lofton and hisChocs.

Palmer packing for Lafayette County

Jaymie Palmer will be missed. Brookhaven’s offensive coordinatorhas accepted a position on Anthony Hart’s new staff at LafayetteCounty in Oxford. Palmer, a Lawrence County native, was recognizedfor his innovative coaching skills so he should give the Commodoresa boost on the scoreboard.

Lafayette was runner-up to Clarksdale in the North Mississippichampionship last November. Clarksdale lost to Brookhaven in theClass 4A state championship game.

Palmer also served on Coach Randy Springs’ BHS baseball staff,helping the Panthers win the 4A state title last May. For sure, hispresence will be missed there, too.

All-Star Roundup: Brookhaven will berepresented by linebacker Darius Perkins and center GrantMcDonnieal in the 55th Annual Bernard Blackwell All-Star FootballClassic this summer. The game will be played July 15, at MadisonCentral.

Perkins and McDonnieal will play for the South squad which isunder the direction of Mize’s Kenny Robinson. Area players also onthe South squad are wide receivers Damoyn Carroll of Hazlehurst andJasper O’Quinn of Franklin County, defensive back Justin Lewis ofLawrence County and linebacker John Thompson of McComb.

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