Coach of the Year: Marc Howard made history

Published 3:14 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

Bogue Chitto made history this season as the Bobcats advanced to the MHSAA 2A semifinals in boys’ basketball for the first time in school history.

The school has a rich tradition in basketball and has been a force in the 1A ranks over the years, but had fallen on tough times in recent seasons.

Head coach Marc Howard is an alum of the school and you can’t get more Bogue Chitto than his family linage, so rebuilding the program into a state title contender is a deeply personal project for the second year head coach.

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For his efforts in leading BC back to the Big House aka the Mississippi Coliseum, Howard has been named The Daily Leader All-Area Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year. 

Some of that BC boys’ basketball tradition is in the far past under the leadership of coach Bob Calhoun. The most recent run of Bobcat greatness was experienced with coach Theo “Bo” Black leading the team.

Sit down and start to write out the names of all the men that have tried their hand at coaching the team in the most recent decades and you might see some names you’d forgotten.

Andy Smithie, Curt Crain, Marvin McGee, Robbie Walters, Mark Pitts, Jimmie Butler and Jeremy Harrell are all part of that list. Black even came out of retirement for a spell and longtime BC football coach Gareth Sartin was pressed into action as the interim basketball coach at one time.

Instability does not often precede success and the 21-6 record posted by Howard’s team this season is the first time for Bogue Chitto to finish above .500 since Harrell had a team go 19-12 in 2011.

The run to the state semifinals by the 2022-2023 team actually started in the second to the last game of the previous season.

It was in the consolation game between BC and East Marion, played in the bandbox gym of Amite County High. 

East Marion had beaten the Bobcats twice in the regular season, but in that third meeting the young Bobcats held a late lead.

EM tried to scramble on defense and force the pace of the game into a hectic style that would cause Bogue Chitto to collapse.

That didn’t happen though as Howard called timeouts to calm his team, the Bobcats hit late free throws and they showed growth in beating a team that had topped them by 29 points in the first meeting between the schools earlier that season.

Bogue Chitto lost in the first round of the playoffs at Collins a few days later, but with a 13-13 record and a roster filled with underclassmen, there was real momentum heading into this season.

All that momentum could have stopped with a loss in early February though.

A year after meeting East Marion in the consolation game, the teams met again in the Region 7-2A championship game at West Lincoln.

BC had swept the Eagles in the regular season, but on that night, it felt like Bogue Chitto could never get control of the game in an eventual 63-60 loss.

Howard convinced his team that all their goals were still attainable, despite the loss to EM.

They bounced back to beat a solid Lake squad at home and then went on the road to get one of the most thrilling wins of the entire MHSAA postseason.

In the second round, the Bobcats played at Velma Jackson, a school that’s among the heavyweights of small school basketball in Mississippi hoops.

VJ went up 70-67 late and Howard called a time out to again convince his team that all wasn’t lost.

“I told them to just trust me,” said Howard a few days after the win. “Velma was throwing the ball in and I told them to just trust me and give everything they had on trying to get a steal on the inbounds.”

That’s exactly what happened as a VJ player stepped out of bounds after getting trapped in the corner by two BC defenders.

On the subsequent inbounds play, sophomore point guard Devonta “Bam” Thompson, the All-Area Player of the Year, threw the ball in with 8.4 seconds left.

Thompson tossed it in and then received a pass at the top of the key.

After taking two dribbles, the left-hander flicked up a shot that splashed through the bottom of the net to send the game to overtime at 70-70.

That extra period was all BC as the Bobcats won 85-73.

The momentum kept rolling for Howard’s team as they beat Kemper County 45-34 in the 2A quarterfinals. 

The dream season ended with a 57-40 loss to Northside High in the semis, but with just two seniors in the rotation used by Howard, don’t be surprised to see Bogue Chitto boys’ basketball become an annual 2A contender.