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Enterprise splits hoops season opener with Raleigh

The Enterprise Yellow Jackets broke the seal on regular season basketball Thursday night when they hosted a varsity twin bill against the Raleigh Lions.

The Lady Jackets held a one-point lead at halftime before Raleigh pulled away in the second half to take a 31-17 win. In the boys’ game, the Yellow Jackets shot the ball with the confidence of a team playing on their home court, as they used a big second quarter to pull away for a 53-28 victory.

Lady Jackets light on experience this season

Enterprise coach Shane Adams is in his second season leading the girls’ team and third as the head coach of the boys.

Last season, the Lady Jackets finished 10-8 and were put out of the District 7-2A tournament by Bogue Chitto.

The 2017-2018 team started five seniors that were all key players the previous season when the team finished 15-11 in coach Jill Nations’ final season on the bench. All of that experience — led by Nations’ twin daughters Carlee and Jana — has been lost to graduation.

The most experienced returnees for Enterprise this season are senior guards Britany Barnett and Breyauna Johnson. Barnett averaged 3.4 points per game last season, and Johnson scored 2.5 points per game while grabbing 1.2 rebounds per game as a junior.

Johnson scored a team-high five points against Raleigh Thursday night, while Barnett chipped in four points. Johnson grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in the loss.

“The girls played hard all night, but we’re very inexperienced and you can’t mimic the kind of length that Raleigh has in practice,” said Adams.

The Lady Jackets led 11-10 at halftime, but Raleigh used turnovers and transition offense in the third quarter to take the lead and hold Enterprise to just three points in the period. A 20-14 Lady Lions lead after the third period became insurmountable, as the defensive pressure from 3A Raleigh forced Enterprise into 25 turnovers on the night.

Naricke Page led Raleigh with 20 points.

“We’re timid at times right now,” said Adams. “We’ll pass up an open shot because we’re afraid of missing it. I told the girls at halftime to take those open shots rather than passing them up and possibly turning it over. We got some good looks in the second half but couldn’t get anything to stay down.”

Gracie Thompson — who also scored four points — is the only other senior on the team along with Johnson and Barnett.

Juniors for the Lady Jackets are Marlee Gunnell and Belle Porter. Sophomores suiting up for Enterprise this season include Shauna Hewitt, K.K. Jones, Emma Waldrop and Molly Thompson. The bulk of the roster comes from the freshman class that includes Paris Peartree, Ashlyn Bland, Emily Lawrence, Bailey Reeves, Kana Feltus, Gracie Hudnall, Natalie Harris, Chrystal Eley and Alexandra McGee.

“Marlee, Breyauna, and K.K. have all been shooting the ball well in practice,” said Adams. “We’ve just got to develop some toughness and learn to fight for the ball as the season progresses.”

Jackets counting on outside shooting in 2018-2019

The Enterprise boys took their lumps in 2017-2018, as they finished with a 2-15 overall record. The Jackets were adjusting to life after Dwayne Pendleton, a do-everything guard that led Enterprise to the playoffs in 2016-2017 and a 13-16 record in Adam’s first season at the helm.

The Jackets got a huge boost to their roster this offseason, and for that, they can thank the man upstairs.

Sophomore guard Hib Johnson transferred to the school after attending Lawrence County as a freshman. Johnson is the son of Scott Johnson, which is name that is familiar to area sports fans. Johnson has coached at Brookhaven Academy, Columbia Academy, Topeka-Tilton and Lawrence County. Johnson was an assistant for Vicki Rutland last season on a Lawrence County girls’ team that captured the MHSAA 4A state title.

Johnson has been a long-time youth minister and has been involved with various churches throughout his coaching career. Johnson was called last year to serve as the minister at Providence Baptist Church and, in doing so, moved his family into the Enterprise attendance zone.

The younger Johnson is a true point guard and the type of gym-rat, coach’s son that makes his teammates better.

Against Raleigh, it was clear that Johnson will be the one who has the ball in his hands to start every Jacket possession this season. Johnson stuffed the stat line on Thursday night, as he scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out five assists and made four steals.

Johnson never came out of the game, and with three minutes left and his team leading by 20 points, he was still diving on the floor to steal a possession for his team.

“Hib is just a savvy player,” said Adams. “His ability to get into the middle of the defense is going to open up a lot of things for his teammates.”

The Jacket roster also got another bump in the offseason when junior Austin Fugler joined the team. Fugler is a left-handed pitcher that has one of the best arms in the area. He’d never played basketball before because travel baseball kept him from attending summer workouts. This past offseason, Fugler and Adams made sure that he was available to work with the team in the summer.

When he drew the start Thursday night, Fugler was playing in his first basketball game since sixth grade. How did he respond? By going 4-of-5 from the 3-point line on his way to a game-high 19 points.

Fugler had no idea himself that he’d have such a big night in his basketball debut.

“I’ve never been known as a shooter, but I’ve been putting in work on our shooting machine,” said Fugler.

At halftime, Fugler was outscoring Raleigh all by himself, 17-13, as his team held a commanding 31-13 lead over the Lions.
Adams hopes the ability to shoot the ball, and therefore stretch the floor, will be a strong point of his team all season.

“Fugler has been putting up a ton of extra shots as we’ve moved towards the season,” said Adams. “Anthony Nations is another guy who can knock down shots from the outside for us.”

Enterprise will have to rely on their zone defense this season, as they are undersized in the post. Senior forward Peytin Jergins is one of the most-experienced Jackets and gives the team a combination of skill and physicality in the paint.

“We’re not the biggest team, but we share the ball freely with each other and I think that’s one of our biggest strengths,” said Adams.

Jergins, Austin Burns and Jalon Grinstead are the only seniors on the team. Matthew Malone, Wyatt Burns and Fugler make up the junior class. Sophomores suiting up for the Jackets include Nations, Johnson and Dylan Carter. Freshmen on the team are Austin Mosely, Trey Baker, Taylor Presley, Brayden Polk, Dawson Smith and Jacob Bates.

“Raleigh has some guys still out with football and it’s a long season, but tonight was a good start,” said Adams. “For us to come out and shoot the ball so well against their zone was very encouraging.”

Story by Cliff Furr