BA boys continue to build

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Brookhaven Academy head boys’ basketball coach Josh Watts is enjoying coaching the group of Cougars he’s leading this season. Not that playing MAIS 6A Presbyterian Christian School on Saturday night in John R. Gray Gymnasium was a whole lot of fun.

The visiting Bobcats from Hattiesburg won 69-23 to move their record to 12-1 on the season.  BA will face a similarly daunting opponent when they travel Thursday to another MAIS 6A program, Jackson Academy (12-0).

The loss to PCS snapped what had been a two-game winning streak for BA. The Cougars beat Centreville Academy 80-60 last week and before that, they blew out Cathedral School 61-10.

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PCS led 14-2 after the first quarter and 28-12 at halftime.

Overall, the Cougars are 9-5 thus far in 2023-2024.

On Saturday, Watts started a lineup of three juniors and two sophomores.

This team has length and athleticism and some guys that can score the basketball.

They’re still raw though. At times, raw as clay that’s just been dug out of the earth. Molding them and forming them into better players and teammates and young men is what Watts is enjoying most about this season.

“It’s been a good year so far,” said Watts prior to tipoff on Saturday. “We’re not very experienced, but they have been working hard in practice to improve and you can see them getting better. The main thing is they’re coachable, they’re a good group of guys.”

Point guard Jess Cox and center Madden Coleman are the sophomores in the starting five.

Coleman stands 6-foot-7 and is still growing. His ability to protect the rim as a shot blocker is a luxury that many of BA’s opponents don’t have. His offensive game continues to develop as he gets stronger and learns to hold his space in the paint.

Cox is comfortable handling the ball as he’s been the primary scorer in his class up through elementary and junior high. He can move over to the wing in a halfcourt set when junior Jon Mark Beasley runs the offense.

Beasley is the most experienced returnee. Last year the Cougars started five seniors on a team that went 9-23 and Beasley was the first substitute off the bench.

Another returnee from last season is 6-foot-6 junior Asher Havard. Havard missed time with an injury last season, but pairing his length and athleticism in the paint alongside Coleman is part of what’s made these Cougars stand out thus far.

Having a guy who knows how to get buckets also doesn’t hurt and that’s what Brookhaven got when 6-foot-3 guard Carter Davis transferred into the program this year after moving in from Texas.  Davis has a smooth jumper and is crafty handling the ball.

His mother, Amy Smith Davis, made many a 3-pointers in Gray Gymnasium while winning multiple state titles during her playing days.

Connor Vance and Braden Revere are two of the first subs off the bench used by Watts.

Size inside, multiple ball handlers and outside shooting. The pieces are all there, but the Cougars are light on experience, and playing teams like Presbyterian Christian will only make them better.

The Bobcats from PCS aren’t tall, but they are wide, strong and shot the ball with confidence from deep after being patient on each possession. There are some top tier basketball teams in the MAIS, especially in 6A class members PCS (12-1), Jackson Academy (12-0), Jackson Prep (10-1), Madison-Ridgeland Academy (14-0), Hartfield Academy (9-3) and Madison-St. Joe (10-1).

Presbyterian Christian has a non-conference schedule loaded up with larger MHSAA programs. The Bobcats lone loss came by a 54-49 final to MHSAA 4A Pass Christian. PCS has wins over MHSAA 6A West Harrison (twice), 6A Hancock High (twice), 7A D’Iberville, 4A Bay High and 6A Long Beach.

Head coach Josh Sherer and PCS also have a 58-56 win over Oak Forest Academy, one of the schools BA will play in MAIS District 3-5A.

The district is made up of the Cougars, OFA, Columbia Academy, Parklane Academy, Bowling Green School and Silliman Institute. There isn’t a cupcake in the bunch and it’s the deepest division in 5A along with District 1, which is where title contenders Starkville Academy, Heritage Academy and Rossville Christian (Tn.) play.

If you missed seeing the Cougars play against PCS in Gray Gymnasium, it’s going to be a minute before you’ll get that chance again.

After playing at JA on Dec. 14, the Cougars travel to Amite School Center on Dec. 15, a team they’ve beaten this season. They’ll then play on Dec. 16 at Copiah Academy. The team comes back from the holiday break with two consecutive road games to begin district play, at Parklane Academy on Jan. 2 and at Oak Forest Academy on Jan. 5.

BA returns to the friendly confines of their home court on Jan. 6, a Saturday matchup against Copiah Academy.