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Brookhaven Academy Cougars poised to make run into postseason

The Brookhaven Academy boys basketball team is in as good a shape as a team can be.

After last season’s 30-win effort in which the Cougars ran deep into the playoffs in 3A competition, BA now finds itself on the new, smaller battlefield of District 3-2A, facing unfamiliar foes running a dearth of big-game experience. That alone gives the boy cats a big advantage in district play this season, but just in case that isn’t enough, the Cougars are also bringing back six players with significant game experience.

“All of them started games at some point during the year last season,” said BA head coach Josh Watts, entering his fourth season at the helm. “Some of them earned all-district and all-state honors, so this is a pretty good group of guys.”

The returning foundation of guys with playing time is senior-laden — Luke Jackson, Ethan Nations and Tate Felder have been in big games. Newly added seniors Cade Hodges and Dawson Zumbro will flesh out the Cougars’ maturity.

It’s not only seniors, though. Juniors Cade Brown, Dawson Flowers and Tanner Thurman have also racked up heaps of game experience and will keep the older guys fresh in games this winter. Another five sophomores will be on-hand to soak up experience — and playing time where possible — to lay the groundwork for the coming years.

For Watts, there’s quality in the quantity, so much so he doesn’t have to depend on one player to call the shots on-court.

“We really don’t have one main guy. We have a bunch of guys who can all handle the ball well,” he said. “We have a team full of good guys who can produce and do the things we need them to do.”

What Watts needs them to do is play man defense every possession, every game, all season. He’s committed to the concept and the pressure it puts on opposing offenses. The Cougars do not zone.

On offense, BA will be versatile. There’s always the threat of scoring in transition with a vexing man defense on the floor, but Watts said his cats are also capable of slowing the game down and setting up offenses.

“The one thing this team did last year that was the most important, that enabled us to go as far as we did, was to control the tempo of the game,” he said. “We were able to go fast when we wanted to and slow it down when we needed to.”

BA will play some tough, 4A out-of-district foes this season, but the drop down to 2A means the night-to-night grind will be lessened from what the team is accustomed to in 3A competition. The Cougars aren’t used to the new bad guys in their district — Clinton Christian, Prentiss Christian, Sylva-Bay and Newton County — but they ought to be able to bring the hurt to any court on the schedule.

“There will still be some hard nights, don’t get me wrong,” Watts said. “But it won’t be as hard night in, night out. We won’t go through the hard grind we had to go through in 3A.”

Watts expects his Cougars to go far this season, and by all measures they should. As always, the goal is a championship, and BA has the roster to do it. The hard games and close battles, the postseason play and trips out of town — all that hard-earned experience is priceless.

For BA, the biggest enemy may be themselves.

“One thing we need to do is be humble. We had some great experiences last year, some great success, but that don’t always carry over to the next year,” Watts said. “If we can remain humble and continue to work hard and not be complacent, I think we’ll be OK.”