Craft believes in defense, discipline

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Brookhaven girls basketball coach Freda Craft preachesdiscipline and defense to her basketball teams. They usuallyrespond to her demands and find themselves winning plenty of gamesas a result.

Craft’s Lady Panthers produced a 31-7 worksheet this season,winning the South Mississippi Tournament title. They lost a 76-69overtime decision to defending champion Indianola Gentry in theClass 4A State Tournament semifinals.

For her efforts, Craft has been selected The DAILY LEADER’sLincoln County Girls Basketball Coach Of The Year for 2008. It’sthe second straight year for Craft to capture the award. She issharing this year’s honor with Brookhaven Academy coach BarryGray.

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A 1973 graduate of Hazlehurst, Craft is a 1978 graduate ofMississippi College where she played for the Lady Choctaws.

After a 32-6 showing and a state runner-up finish to Gentry in2007, Craft faced a strange dilemma. She had two all-state postplayers returning in 6-3 Swayze Black and 6-2 Nikki Byrd, plus6-foot center Whitley Shannon. Three starting guards graduated fromthat squad, so experience in the backcourt was limited.

“I moved my two big girls into the guard position a lot,especially if the other team was pressing us,” said Craft. “We dida lot more passing this year.”

Craft usually started Kearra Collins, Makesha Burnett, AshleyGayten or Amber Dickey at the guard positions. For them, it was alearning experience in a pressure-packed situation.

“Against most teams we were bigger but our disadvantage was notenough quickness,” Craft explained. “Our record wasn’tdisappointing this year but I was displeased with the finalresults.”

Gentry, 40-0 in 2007, went on and won the Grand Slam thisseason. The Lady Rams boast a perfect 80-0 record over 2campaigns.

“We are still in search of that gold ball,” said Craft,referring to the state championship trophy. This was her 18th yearto coach basketball.

She said she enjoys her job. “I love coaching and it keeps youyoung. You get to play with kids and discipline them.”

Craft said community support has been strong at Brookhaven. “Youfeel welcome and the atmosphere is good. The players are eager tolearn. You don’t get much pressure from the parents.

“The administration gives us plenty of support, too,” Craftnoted. “We have discipline in the gym and in the classroom.”

Working with Craft as an assistant coach is Chastidy Sandiferwho coaches the ninth grade. Craft’s husband is a teacher and coachat Hazlehurst.