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Much is new on the court for the Lawrence County Cougars

A new division with new opponents will take some getting used to for the Lawrence County Lady Cougars in 2017-2018, but as always, the expectations for Coach Vicki Rutland is another berth in the MHSAA 4A State Tournament.

Gone are the days of fierce in-district rivalries with South Pike, North Pike and McComb. Now Rutland and her team enter their first season in a rugged 4A Region 7 that boasts Poplarville, Forrest County AHS and Greene County.

Rutland does have the luxury of returning her two leading scorers from last season in senior center Camryn Davis (14.4 ppg last season) and junior guard Kyunna Thomas (11.8 ppg as a sophomore). Davis was selected to play in the MAC North/South All-Star team last spring, which signifies she is one of the top seniors in the state to watch this season.

���Our goal every year is to be the best team we can,” said Rutland. “We’re fortunate to have some experienced players returning, but basketball is a team game and we’ll need contributions from everyone to have the type of season we’d like to have.”

The Lawrence County boys will be tasked with replacing one of the most decorated players in recent school history, Keyshawn Feazell. Hampered by a knee injury for a large part of his senior season, Feazell averaged 15 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game last season.

The 6-foot-8 230-pound forward will be a freshman this season for the Mississippi State Bulldogs and has earned praise from the coaching staff during their fall training sessions. Also lost to graduation was Meridian Community College signee Vernell Garner (13 ppg last season).

Lawrence County alum Pat Bridges begins his ninth year as the head man in Monticello and he’s not exactly sure who will carry the scoring load for his team this season.

“The team is made up of only juniors and seniors, but it’s short on experience,” said Bridges. “We’ll win games with defensive ball pressure and effort. If we can score in transition and off turnovers then we’re going to be OK.”

The move to a new region is one that will benefit the program as Greene County, Sumrall and Forest County AHS all have struggled in recent years. Even the leading programs like Poplarville and Purvis pale in comparison with the rich hoops tradition that Lawrence County extols.