Look for it: Boys’ all-area hoops team coming in weekend edition

Published 5:17 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

Tomorrow we’ll unveil our all-area team for boys’ basketball. In the past, we’ve run both teams together and done so usually around the last week of March as both teams have been published on the same day.

With plenty of space to fill, though, I’ve decided to split the teams up. Tomorrow you’ll see who our player of the year is along with coach of the year. Next weekend, we’ll do it again with our girls’ team.

2019-2020 season was one of learning for area teams

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This past basketball season was a learning experience for many of the area teams. Most were playing their first season after losing a leading scorer from the previous year.

What you could see, though, were teams that got better as the season progressed. Younger players stepped into new roles and the future looks bright for basketball in southwest Mississippi.

Learning can be cruel, though. Sometimes we’ve got to touch the fire and get singed before we respect the flame.

Brookhaven Academy coach Josh Watts knew that battling inconsistency would be one of the hardest battles he’d fight with his team.

The Cougars had won two straight MAIS state championships, but they’d graduated four seniors that were the unquestioned leaders.

Watts and a young group of Cougars improved as the season went along and they blew out Oak Forest 58-21 in a packed John R. Gray Gymnasium to put their record at 20-7.

The win also put them into first place in District 4-4A with games remaining against teams they’d already beaten once.

Two days later, however, that was all washed away by an overtime loss at Adams County Christian School. BA led 21-13 at halftime before a Rebel rally that gave the home team a 55-51 win.

It put BA back behind Oak Forest in the division standings and gave them a much tougher matchup in the first round of the 4A South State Tournament a few weeks later.

Hartfield Academy eliminated BA and kept them out of the state tournament — something doesn’t often happen.

BA wins that game over ACCS and it might have been them hoisting the MAIS 4A state title a few weeks later and not Simpson Academy — a team the Cougars beat in the regular season.

With only one senior on their roster you can expect that next year the Cougars will kick it up a notch coming off a big win as they now know how painful that type of hangover can be.

Area teams saw rivals improve

With Wesson dropping down from 3A to the local Region 7-2A division, there was an expectation that the Cobras would amp up the level of play by joining the league.

Wesson was good all year long and they had some great games against the Lincoln County teams that they use to play in non-region games, but now met in division matchups.

What no one could not have predicted was the leap that Amite County made.

Last season the Trojans were 6-16 and weren’t very good.

In the offseason they hired Warren Hargrove as their head coach. Hargrove had been an assistant on the coast previously and in his first season as a head coach he led Amite County to a 23-4 record.

The Trojans played full-court man, had eight seniors and dominated Region 7-2A.

It was a turnaround that no one saw coming as the Trojans had previously had five straight losing seasons.

It’s also a testament to how much difference a coaching change can make when the players and administration buy into what the new coach is selling.

Area teams saw younger players grow up

There’s truly nothing like being a young ball handler in a big game when the defense is kicking up the pressure.

In a second-round playoff game at Brookhaven High, the Panthers had come out and jumped ahead of Natchez with some hot shooting from deep.

Natchez countered by going to a half-court trap that changed the complexion of the game.

The Bulldogs were flying around as they got a hand on pass after pass by the BHS offense.

There is a core of sophomores on the BHS roster that have a chance to be special in a few years when they’re seniors.

The group has a little of everything with a couple skinny 6-foot-5ish post players, a point guard and a strong wing or two mixed in as well.

Against Natchez, though, they were getting busted up by the pressure.

To their credit they didn’t run from the ball. They kept going back against the teeth of a pressure that had two strong, athletic Natchez seniors at the top of it.

It’s the kind of loss that teaches you something. It hurts when it’s going on. It hurts worse when it’s over — but it makes you better for having gone through it.

Cliff Furr is the sports editor at The Daily Leader. He can be reached at sports@dailyleader.com