BHS girls rout Cougars to give Wilson win No. 500

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Brookhaven High head girls’ basketball coach Preston Wilson stood near half court Friday in Sinclair Gymnasium holding a set of three balloons with his family.

The red balloons spelled out 500 — as in career wins — a milestone Wilson reached with his team’s 45-11 win over Lawrence County.

As his friends, family and team celebrated Wilson afterwards with a light reception in a meeting room, he took a little playful ribbing from some.

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“Didn’t we just do this for you and win No. 300 last year,” said one friend. “Save what we can to reuse when he gets No. 600,” said another supporter.

Wilson has been a head coach at Brookhaven High, Warren Central, Shreveport-Woodlawn and Lawrence County during his career.

When he came back to Brookhaven High in 2009 — he did so as a boys’ coach — the gender with which he’d coached exclusively at that point in his career.

In 2015, Wilson took over as the girls’ head coach and ceded the boys bench to his then assistant Jimmie Butler.

The Lady Panthers went 4-21 the season before Wilson took over the program and were 3-24 in his first year.

The building process didn’t happen overnight, but Wilson started to mold his team into one that plays fast, physical and fearlessly.

Since his second season leading the girls’ program, the Lady Panthers are a combined 111-33 and finished as 5A runners-up in 2020.

No. 500 would likely have been reached last season had Brookhaven not been so severely affected by COVID-19 quarantines and shutdowns. Last year’s version of the Lady Panthers finished 11-6 and lost 66-30 to Holmes County Central in the 5A semifinals.

The team’s biggest loss from that team was senior point guard Ashanti Louis, the type of player that knew where her teammates should be at all-times.

Wilson says this year’s group is one that’s still growing.

“We’re learning to trust those younger players and they’re learning to trust each other,” said Wilson. “They aren’t always in the right spot every time, but I can’t fault their effort. When they’re playing as hard as they did tonight, you’ll take the good with the bad.”

Junior Angel “Cookie” Wilkinson led BHS with 10 points in the win over Lawrence County. Wilkinson and her teammate Kyja Willis form a formidable front line on the BHS press defense.

Willis is a senior as is forward Denaejah “Tootie” Williams. Both are 3-year starters that have been part of some big wins while at BHS.

Williams added seven points and junior center Leah Wilcher added six points as well. Wilcher stands 6-foot-3 and towers over most teams BHS plays. The speed with which the Lady Panthers play doesn’t change with her on the court though.

“Getting the ball down quick and going inside to Denaejah and Leah is always going to open up good things for us offensively,” said Wilson. “That means they’ve got to run the court hard and we were ok doing that tonight, but we’ve still got room to get better.”

Senior Aniyah Cook and junior Alexis Kelly have played plenty of big minutes over their careers at the point guard spot and the pair will be counted on even more this season at the position.

“In our losses this season (to Oak Grove, Brandon Germantown), we didn’t shoot the ball as well as we usually do,” said Wilson. “The hope is that starts to come around and your work that you put in shooting in practice starts to pay off, but if we guard and run like we’re capable of — everything else will work out.”

Friday it all worked out quickly as BHS led 12-1 after the first quarter and 23-5 at halftime.

BHS (11-3) will host a huge region matchup with West Jones (9-2) on Jan. 7 when the teams return to school from the holiday break.