• 70°

Bobcats swept by Hazlehurst

The Bogue Chitto Bobcats were swept in their season-opening hoops doubleheader on Saturday at home.

In the girls’ game, the Lady Bobcats put together a late run to cut the Lady Indian lead before Hazlehurst used their full court pressure to take a 36-29 win. In the boys’ game, the Indians relied on constant ball pressure to run past the Bobcats 71-50.

Both Bogue Chitto teams are under new leadership in 2018-2019.

Former longtime girls’ coach Christi Terrell moved across the county in a western direction to take the head job at Loyd Star. Terrell was replaced by Robby Walters. Former boys’ coach Marc Pitts moved on after five seasons to take a position as the head coach at Byram Middle School, and to also serve as the assistant at Terry High School. Replacing him is former Jim Hill head coach Marvin McGee.

Lady Bobcats forecast to be scrappy as usual

Terrell built a program that was known for playing a physical, gritty style of basketball. The Lady Cats would often stifle teams with their zone defense and rely on outside shooting to provide their offense. The 2015-2016 team finished 31-3 and won the 1A state title with a 59-31 victory over Shaw.

Walters knows that Bogue Chitto girls’ basketball is one of great tradition, one that he hopes to continue.

“Coach Terrell built the program for 14 years and we’re trying to keep it at that high standard,” said Walters.

Last season, the Lady Bobcats finished 11-11 and 1-5 in region play in their first season in 2A.  In Hazlehurst, they were facing a team that made it to the 3A state semifinals last season where they lost by two points to Independence.

Hazlehurst senior center Asia Madison is a post player the likes of which Bogue Chitto probably won’t face again this season. Every inch of 6-foot-1, Madison is a shot-blocking force in the paint who uses her length to disturb any offensive opportunity near the basket. She holds an offer from Copiah-Lincoln Community College among other community colleges.

Ebony Williams led Hazlehurst with 13 points, and Madison chipped in 11 points.

Junior Tuanna Brumfield led Bogue Chitto with eight points. Brumfield came off the bench to give the Lady Bobcats a spark, as her outside shooting gave the team confidence after they trailed 16-8 at halftime.

A free throw by junior forward Kemilah Clay pulled Bogue Chitto within one — 30-29 — with 46.1 seconds left. The Lady Indians, coached by former Hazlehurst and Co-Lin standout TeAirra Wilbert-Menzie, came right back and went inside to Madison for a layup to push their lead back to three. Hazlehurst would then jump into a full-court pressure that caused two consecutive Lady Bobcats’ turnovers and easy Lady Indian baskets that sealed the win for the visitors.

Walters was pleased with the fight his team showed to come back in the second half. In the first half, he felt like his team was fighting themselves.

“We were very nervous, jittery even, in the first half,” said Walters. “I told them at halftime that we needed to stop beating ourselves and start trying to beat the other team.”

The Bogue Chitto second-half comeback was spurred by strong defense by senior guard Karly Leake and junior guard Katelynn Palmer. The duo were at the top of the zone and caused several turnovers that led to easy buckets.

That’s a style that Walters hopes his team can play as the season progresses — defensive speed that will lead to easy transition buckets.

The path that has led Walters to Bogue Chitto isn’t a traditional one.

Walters played at West Jones and Mississippi College. After college, he coached at Wayne County and Northwest Jones. Then the oil field came calling, and Walters spent the next 34 years working for Texaco-Chevron. He stayed connected with sports and never stopped coaching. During his last few years in the oilfield, Walters was actually the head coach at Laurel Christian.

“I had an awesome boss in the oil field that would let me come home to coach in games and then fly right back the next day,” said Walters.

Walters last coached at Sylva-Bay Academy in Bay Springs and has coached on the boys’ and girls’ sides of the game. His 2016-2017 Sylva-Bay boys’ team won the MAIS AA State Championship. Last season, he was out of coaching and spent time hunting and fishing.

That was fun — for a while.

“I’d rather be in a gym helping young people grow their game,” said Walters. “The way the community has received my family has been nothing but great. The support the community gives the school is very special, it feels like something from another time, like when I was growing up as a kid.”

Leake, Cheyenne Hall and Charlsie Wilson make up the Bogue Chitto senior class. Palmer, Brumfield, DeAnna Edwards, Kemilah Clay, Riley Watts and Kayden McKnight make up the large junior class for the Lady Bobcats. Kayci Beth Wallace is the lone sophomore on the team, and Kaitlin Poole and Rylea Carter make up the freshmen class.

McGee hopes to grow

boys’ program

McGee has served as a coach of both genders in his career as well. It was actually during his time coaching girls that he first became familiar with Bogue Chitto.

“In 2010 at McAdams I won the 1A state title on the girls’ side,” said McGee. “The toughest game we played that season was against Bogue Chitto in south state, so I knew something about this school before I came here. The community and administration have been very supportive, and with this beautiful facility, boys’ basketball is something I want to see grow at Bogue Chitto.”

Hazlehurst and their coach, Chris Parker, use full-court pressure and three-point shooting to speed the game up. The Indians position four guards on the perimeter and whip the ball from side to side. Within four to five passes, someone is tossing up a three-pointer.

McGee has a young Bobcat team that was overwhelmed by the pressure early, but settled in later in the game and got some easy buckets when they broke the press. Hazlehurst led 32-14 at halftime. Junior Toby Williams scored a team-high 15 points for the Indians.

Bogue Chitto junior forward Josh Thomas scored a game-high 19 points. In Thomas, the Bobcats have a nice building block of a long, athletic forward that can stretch the floor. Thomas made three second half three-pointers.

Freshman point guard Markee McGee — the coach’s son — is a young player the Bobcats will count on to grow as the season progresses. Coach McGee also likes the potential in 6-foot-3 sophomore Tristan Buffington.

“We’ve got two seniors in Cameron Gladdens and Kirby Reid that really hustle and have been shooting the ball well for us in practice,” said McGee. “Zach Upkins, DaMarcus Godbolt and Warrick Cook are three guys fresh off the football field that will give us some physicality as they work back into basketball shape.

Gladdens scored nine points against Hazlehurst and Upkins added eight points.

Godbolt, Reid, Cook, Gladdens and Dezaerious May are the seniors on the team. Thomas, Upkins, Lincoln Collins and Corey Harris make up the junior class. Buffington is the lone sophomore and McGee and Timothy Richardson are the freshmen on the team.

McGee didn’t get the job until late in the summer, but he has been pleased with the work ethic of his team. Bogue Chitto finished 11-16 in 2017-2018 and lost 49-46 to Pisgah in the opening round of the playoffs.

“I’ve been treated like family since I got here, and the kids have been very receptive to my coaching,” said McGee. “The goal is to work every day in practice and improve the areas where we are weak.

Bogue Chitto travels to Richland for a varsity doubleheader beginning tonight at 6 p.m.

Story by Cliff Furr