Lawrence County hosts West Lincoln tonight

Published 10:20 am Friday, November 6, 2015

MONTICELLO – Though playoff football action is in full swing, high school hoops action also opens up this weekend. At Lawrence County High School, the Cougars and Lady Cougars will tip off their season tonight, hosting West Lincoln. Today’s games were originally scheduled for Thursday, but were shuffled when LCHS and Columbia decided to move their football playoff game to Thursday.

Expectations are high at Lawrence County this year. Pat Bridges’ boys went 22-12 last season, advancing to the state 4A tournament at the JSU Assembly Center. A loss to Indianola Gentry at the state tourney has made the Cougars even hungrier this year.

Bridges returns four starters from his 2014-15 team. Senior guards Phillip Moore and Gabriel Lewis have been mainstays since their freshman seasons. Junior big man Keyshawn Feazell, at 6’8″, has a chance to be a force on both ends of the floor. Lawrence County’s fourth returning starter, A.J. McLaurin, is still engaged with the LCHS football team.

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“We’re excited to get started,” said Bridges. “We got a taste of success last season, and hope to build on that this year. We’ll be missing a few players until the football season is over, but that’s a good problem to have. We’re excited about the success they’re having, and hope it continues.”

Lawrence County lost just one starter off last year’s club, but that loss was a big one. Forward Keith Davis was among the team’s leader in both scoring and rebounding.

Division rival McComb has claimed the last two Mississippi 4A championships. Thus, Bridges considers the Tigers to still be the team to beat in what could be a loaded Division 7-4A.

Vicki Rutland’s Lady Cougars have made a habit of going deep into the 4A playoffs, and the veteran mentor again has high expectations for her charges. LCHS returns all five girls’ starters from last season’s team that finished 15-16.

“We always have high expectations for ourselves,” said Rutland, who won a 4A state championship at Northeast Jones before moving to Lawrence County. “This year, with five returning starters, it has a chance to be a good year. We should be a more consistent, more confident team. Our basketball IQ is certainly higher than it has been.”

Three returning senior starters will lead Rutland’s team into battle. They are Jada McDuffey, Zipporah Baylis and Deneisha Dickson. Junior Haven Johnson missed a portion of last season with a knee injury she suffered on opening night, at West Lincoln. She is back at full strength. Sophomore Camryn Davis led the team in rebounding as a freshman, and was the Lady Cougars’ best inside player.

While the Lawrence County girls return considerable experience, those returning starters are relatively small, a potential handicap Rutland believes her team can overcome.

“We don’t have a lot of size among our starters,” Rutland said, “but you can combat that with speed, quickness and basketball intelligence. We are adding some size among our underclassmen, and we should be a deeper team than we’ve been in recent years.”

The South Pike Lady Eagles have ruled the division in recent years, and Rutland expects Janice Felder’s team to be in the thick of contention again.

Friday’s junior varsity action begins at 5 p.m. The varsity girls are slated for a 6 p.m. start, with the boys’ game tipping off shortly thereafter.