Enterprise, West Lincoln split post-Thanksgiving hoops matchup

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The return to the court for Enterprise and West Lincoln following the Thanksgiving holiday break kicked off with a varsity double header hosted by the Bears Tuesday night in the friendly, warm confines of Jack Case Gymnasium. 

As was the case in the matchup between the teams earlier this season, West Lincoln took the opening girls’ game while the Yellow Jackets from EAC were victorious in the boys’ matchup.

West Lincoln 39, Enterprise 26 (Girls)

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It was a tight game through the first three quarters as West Lincoln began the final period with a 29-26 lead. A lack of offense doomed Enterprise in the final eight minutes as the Yellow Jackets were held without a basket in the fourth quarter.

West Lincoln has won the girls side of Region 7-2A for six consecutive years, but this is year where the Bears are revamping things in a variety of spots. The first being that the Bears are under the direction of head coach Lane Young.

Young replaced Alissa Adams, who took West Lincoln to the MHSAA 2A semifinals and quarterfinals in her two seasons as head coach before leaving for an assistant coach spot at her alma mater, Southwest Mississippi Community College.

From 2002-2017, Young coached both the boys’ and girls’ teams at West Lincoln. Among the players he coached during that time was current West Lincoln head boys’ basketball coach and athletic director Jay Case. 

Young took multiple teams, both boys’ and girls’, to the Mississippi Coliseum during his first run at the school.

For the last seven years, Young worked at Copiah-Lincoln Community College as the assistant athletic director and assistant basketball coach for his father, legendary coach Gwyn Young.

Coming back to West Lincoln was coming home for Young, who’s continued to live and worship in the community and whose daughter Mailey Kate was a top reserve off the bench in the last two seasons for Adams.

Mailey Kate Young, Takyla “Moosy” Brothern, Ramsey Hall, Madilyn Case, Mary Claire Johnson and All-Area MVP Kara Beth Addison all graduated from a West Lincoln team that went 23-2 last season and lost to eventual state champion 2A Lake High in the quarterfinals.

Brothern and Addison were three-year starters while Hall, Case and Johnson all started for the last two seasons.

This year’s senior trio of Preslee Rushing, Alexis Johnson and Gabby Evans all saw some court time last season but have all never been regular starters prior to this year.

The 5-foot-9 Johnson can play inside and outside and in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, she hit some big shots when the Bears needed them. 

She got a putback inside that put West Lincoln ahead 31-26 and forced Enterprise head coach Rusty Newman to call a timeout.

With three minutes left, Johnson drained a high arching 3-pointer that put West Lincoln ahead 36-26 with three minutes remaining in regulation, effectively putting the game away.

Johnson scored a game-high 11 points, with six of those points coming in the fourth quarter. 

Rushing scored nine points on the strength of three 3-pointers. Two of those shots were crucial in the third quarter, as Enterprise led 24-16 at halftime. West Lincoln scored just two points in the second quarter, but EAC would go on to score just two points in the second half.

Sophomore forward Elizabeth Burton banged around inside to score eight points for West Lincoln Junior point guard Maggy James added four points and sophomore guard Chloe Sterling scored three points.

The night wasn’t all wins for Young’s team as Sterling missed much of the second half with a lower leg injury.

Junior Emma Quin and sophomore Adi Myers are two more players that Young brings off the bench.

James is a transfer from Franklin County that didn’t play in Meadville last year, but who’d played as a freshman at French Settlement in south Louisiana. She was less than 100 percent on Tuesday after being ill recently. 

West Lincoln is 5-3 and has lost some tight games against solid competition thus far. They dropped a home game 47-45 to Wesson (5-2), a road game 48-47 at Pisgah (6-2), and the season opener 38-26 at 5A North Pike (7-1).

For Newman, it’s also his first year coaching the girls at Enterprise. He’s coaching both teams after moving over from his alma mater, Wesson. He had a stint at Wesson where he coached both the boys’ and girls’ teams for three years.

The result was an improvement for the Jackets compared to the first time the two teams played on Nov. 10. That night, West Lincoln won 56-22.

“For us to be up on West Lincoln at halftime, that was big for my girls,” said Newman. “We obviously needed to be better in the second half, but it’s all about us building towards improving.”

Junior Natalie Williams scored eight points to lead EAC on the night. Williams is the most experienced returnee from an Enterprise team that went 4-13 last season for longtime head coach Shane Adams.

Miranda Anderson scored six points, Caitlin Case added five points, Kailee Nuckles scored four points and junior Jayden Keene rounded out the Yellow Jacket scoring with three points. 

Much of the girls’ basketball roster was part of the Enterprise softball team that made the third round of the 1A playoffs last year, so you know the team has athleticism, even if the wins are hard to come by right now.

West Lincoln has now won four in a row after beating Salem, Sacred Heart and Hillcrest Christian over the last two weeks. They will return home on Friday while hosting Centreville Academy. Region play begins on Dec. 18 at Loyd Star for the Bears. 

Enterprise (1-5) will host Mize on Friday and Bogue Chitto on Saturday. They won’t start Region 8-1A play against East Marion, Sacred Heart, Lumberton and Salem until after the Christmas break. 

In other girls’ basketball action throughout the area on Tuesday, Mendenhall beat Brookhaven High 44-37, Tylertown beat Lawrence County 40-37, Brookhaven Academy rolled Amite School Center 69-12, Loyd Star whipped Salem 59-25 and Wesson got past Richland 48-47. On Monday, Bogue Chitto beat Copiah Academy 36-31.

Enterprise 67, West Lincoln 41 (Boys)

The basketball freely zipped around the perimeter and down the court and through the West Lincoln defense on Tuesday as Enterprise played fast, free and unselfishly to build a big early lead and cruise to victory. 

The Yellow Jackets are wearing new gear in year one of Rusty Newman leading the program. On the back of every jersey is the word “Family” across the nameplate.

Families should always be generous with one another and the freedom of the ball moving got the Yellow Jackets plenty of open looks in Jack Case Gymnasium. 

Sophomore Jonathan McNickles started Enterprise off with a made 3-pointer from the corner. Later in the first quarter, McNickles found sophomore guard Kelly Burgess on a beautiful skip pass. The ball hit Burgess perfectly for him to knock down a 3-pointer with a quick flick of his wrist.

The pair would later replicate the same cross-court connection in the quarter. 

Enterprise led 26-10 after the first quarter, 42-21 at halftime and 63-27 after the third quarter.

Burgess, who was a Daily Leader All-Area pitcher last year as a freshman, scored a game high 24 points that included four 3-pointers.

Enterprise also used a quick transition game to build that early lead. It’s a natural look for the Yellow Jackets as quarterback Landon McNickles and wide receiver Daylan Barden are two key players on the football field for Enterprise that also start on the hardwood.

McNickles, who led the team in most statistical categories last season, scored an efficient 10 points and Barden chipped in six points. 

The Jackets aren’t tall, but 5-foot-8, 200-pound sophomore Ra’Jayvion Haygood isn’t going to be pushed around inside. Haygood made all his layups while adding eight points on Tuesday. Enterprise also got eight points off the bench from sophomore Patrick Pendleton.

Pendleton came in and hit shots, got hands on balls to force turnover and gave his team a huge boost by making the type of plays that don’t show up in the scorebook.

The same could be said for the style of game played by Jonathan McNickles, who scored seven points. A point-forward, he’s the kind of natural passer that Newman’s teams at Wesson liked to run through.

Gavin Regouffre is one of only two seniors on the team for Enterprise and he scored two points. Freshman Ty Brister added two points as well.

Longtime Enterprise coach Shane Adams had plenty of solid teams during his time at the school, but the 7-13 team last season never felt like it found its identity while playing in a tough 1A region with Richton, Lumberton, Salem, Resurrection Catholic and now Sacred Heart.

That word on the back of the jersey is a big part of the culture that Newman is trying to build this season.

“It’s something we talk about a lot, playing for each other and playing like a family,” said Newman. “This was the best game we’ve played all year.”

That could be reflected in the score, as the first matchup was a much closer 61-57 win for Enterprise. 

West Lincoln head coach Jay Case didn’t see the best effort of the season from his team.

“We looked like we didn’t want to be out there at the start of the game and that’s what’s most frustrating,” said Case. “We’ve made some steps forward this year, but tonight wasn’t good enough.”

Case is in his third year coaching his alma mater where he was an all-state, lights-out shooter. 

The year before he was hired, the Bears finished 1-15. His first West Lincoln team went 2-21 and last year the Bears went 2-17.

This year they’ve already beaten Sacred Heart and Wesson. The Bears also claim a forfeit win over Salem, so their official record is already 3-5 even after the loss. They’ll play Wesson again on Dec. 5.

Junior Tyquarius Terrell and freshman Maddux Johnson led West Lincoln with 10 points each. Amias Smith added six points, senior center Zackary Taylor added four points and Larry Hilson Jr. scored three points. West Lincoln also got two points each from senior Carson Temple, Dereon Eley, Jai’Juan Fells and Cevonte Lewis.

Terrell, Temple, Eley, Fells and Taylor drew the start for West Lincoln.

The Bears are off for a week before playing at Wesson next Tuesday. They’ll then host Puckett on Thursday, Dec. 8 and close the 2023 portion of the schedule with road trips to Salem (12/12), Mississippi School for the Deaf (12/14) and the Region 7-2A opener at Loyd Star (12/18).

Enterprise improves to 4-3 with the win. They beat 1A Taylorsville over the holiday break 48-30. On Friday, they’ll host a Mize team they beat on the road to start the season. They’ll then face a stiff test on Saturday by hosting Bogue Chitto in what should be a back-and-forth matchup.

For Newman, the hope is that this type of performance is repeated the next time his Yellow Jackets hit the court.

“They’re still learning me and how I want us to play the game, but tonight was definitely the type of style we’d like to have,” said Newman. “It starts with Kelly hitting those shots, that opened things up for us and we played fast into transition without turning it over.”

In other high school basketball action throughout the area on Tuesday, Brookhaven High beat Mendenhall 66-39, Tylertown topped Lawrence County 51-46, Brookhaven Academy beat Amite School Center 58-45 and Richland rolled over Wesson 83-59. On Monday, Bogue Chitto bested Copiah Academy 59-42.