Cougars accomplish goal

Published 5:00 am Monday, March 30, 2009

Mission accomplished.

Coach Dale Watts and his Brookhaven Academy team encounteredinjuries and adversity this season but it didn’t derail their questfor an unprecedented, fifth consecutive MPSA Class AA StateTournament championship. Call it another Cougariffic season for theCougars and Watts who is honored as The DAILY LEADER’s LincolnCounty Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.

As the school’s trophy case continues to bulge, Watts said hedoesn’t take the state titles for granted. Each one is special. TheCougars finished 30-10.

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“Last year’s team was a total surprise,” Watts recalled. “Thisyear when the year started, I felt like we had a really talentedteam. We had athleticism and basketball ability.”

There were some changes in order. The Cougars were taller andstronger but they lacked a true point guard.

“We had to play some athletes out of position,” said Watts. “Wewere not a typical BA team. We put a lot of pride in our defenseand try to play man-to-man with full-court pressure.

“We couldn’t do that this year. We had to change some schemes.It took us awhile to make those adjustments.

We went from a quick, perimeter type team to power and slowerfooted. It took some adjusting to get people in the right spot. Wehad some good depth at some positions.”

Recognized for his staunch discipline and work ethic, Watts saidhis latest edition worked harder than usual. “Winning state thisyear was extremely big for these guys. They worked hard. I probablypracticed this team harder than any team I’ve had in the last sixyears.”

Watts said his team was still laboring overtime before thedistrict and South State tournaments. “We seemed to be way behindin some things. We had several three-hour practices. It became verytrying for them. They were taxed. It was a good year but it was ahard year.”

He said their team’s 40-game season was an exhausting schedule.”We played 40 games this year and that’s the most for me.”

In the South State Tournament at Copiah Academy in Gallman, theCougars finished a disappointing fourth, losing to Chamberlain-Hunt68-57. Ironically, it was the same position they finished in lastseason.

“We beat all of the best AA teams during the year,” said Watts.” In the state tournament, things did fall our way.”

Indeed they did. Playing in their home gym, the Cougars won 3state tournament games, beating Chamberlain-Hunt in the titletest.

Obviously, Watts enjoys the game of basketball. “I really doenjoy it. I’m 55 and I enjoy coaching, starting with the seventhgrade team, the eighth grade team and the varsity.”

Watts said he has learned much during his long coaching career.”The Good Lord lets us grow older and wiser. I certainly hope myexperience has changed things. You have more than two options.”

Watts said basketball tradition runs deep at Brookhaven Academy.”We talk about Cougar basketball all of the time. I have one rulenow. I used to have a lot of rules. I threw all the rules away butone.

“We tell the kids and I tell the parents. ‘If you do what’sright, you know it’s right. If you do wrong, I’ll take care ofit.”‘

Asked about the program’s high level of success, Watts said, “Itry to set out to be the best we can be. Winning statechampionships is just like winning games. If you win a game, assoon as the sun comes back up the next day, you have to get readyfor the next game.”

He said it was a rewarding season for his team. “I’m proud forthem that they are wearing a state championship ring. Their kidswill be playing in there (gym) one day. They can look up there andsee those five banners.”

For Watts, his full-time job is training and showing horses,Tennessee Walkers and pleasure horses. He and his two sons, Joshand Jonathan, work with him at Pioneer Stables, located just northof Summit on Highway 51.

“I’m out coaching while my sons work hard to make the businessbetter,” said Watts. “I’m truly blessed.”

They work with 40 horses and have 60 on the property. His wife,Lucy, helps maintain order and provides him with plenty of supporton the home front and in the gym.

Joshua Parker Watts, a 7-month-old grandson, is the latestmember of the Watts family and the first grandchild. He belongs toJosh and Olivia Watts. She sits on the bench and keeps thescorebook during games.