Bogue Chitto Bobcats do a little bit of everything in cruising past Enterprise

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

You know a high school basketball team is having a special year, filled with wins, when they have more guys on the bench than chairs for them to sit in.

On Monday at Bogue Chitto, a bench packed with Bobcats, some sitting on the ground for a lack of space, watched the boys’ team lead from the tip in a 64-43 win over Enterprise.

The win moved the Bobcats to 10-1 on the season and was a showcase of all the intangibles that Bogue Chitto possess as they are title contenders in the MHSAA 2A ranks.

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The first thing BC coach Marc Howard has is experience, as the Bobcats returned nearly their entire roster from a team that went 21-6 last season and lost in the 2A semifinals to Northside High.

On Monday, Howard started one senior, three juniors and one sophomore.

Another thing the Bobcats have is multiple ball handlers.

In football, the old saying is that if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don’t have any starting quarterbacks.

In basketball though, if you have two point guards, you’ve likely got a great team.

Senior Shomari Jenkins starts at the point guard spot and the 5-foot-11, 185-pound veteran has twice been named to the Daily Leader All-Area team during his career.

Jenkins always has his head up, looking to move the ball up the court quickly with a pass. He was pinpoint precise on Monday as he finished with 10 assists.

There was one sequence where he made a steal, near the opposite timeline, and then effortlessly flicked a pass the length of the court to a streaking teammate for a layup.

Junior Devonta “Bam” Thompson plays on the wing, but he can easily switch spots with Jenkins if that’s what the Bobcats need. Thompson is the reigning Daily Leader All-Area MVP after he averaged 21.3 points, 8.6 steals, 6.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore.

A southpaw, Thompson scored a quiet 15 points on Monday with all of those coming in the first half.

Outside shooting is another area where Bogue Chitto is strong as Thompson hit three 3-pointers in the win. Junior wing Noah Magee also hit three 3-pointers against Enterprise as he finished with 15 points too.

Another player who made the Daily Leader All-Area team last season, the 6-foot-5 Magee can shoot over defenders with his height and is a zone-buster if teams want to go that route against the Bobcats.

“Making the extra pass has been something that we’ve really been harping on all season,” said Howard. “When we move the ball like we did tonight, we’re going to get open looks.”

Length and height, add that to the list of impressive Bobcat attributes. When Howard uses a 1-3-1 zone with Thompson up top and Jenkins directing traffic in the back, the middle row of defenders eats up open space on the court.

“From the start of the season, our defense is the thing I’ve been most proud of,” said Howard. “We could have rebounded better in the first quarter, but we played defense with the same type of focus and communication that we’ve had all season.”

Howard is assisted this year by former Salem head coach Tanner Allen.

Bogue Chitto came into the night allowing 41 points per game in its first 10 games.

Magee is in the middle line of the zone along with 6-foot-4 sophomore Tripp McCaffrey and 6-foot-1 junior Shakell Jenkins. When that trio had their arms spread wide and their feet moving on Monday, there was little room to operate for the EAC offense.

McCaffrey is a first-year starter and he’s a player filled with potential to impact Bogue Chitto in a positive way. He scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds on Monday as his ability to get up and down the court was a big part of the Bobcats using a strong transition game to jump ahead 19-5 in the first quarter and 41-13 at halftime.

Kristopher Payton, a 6-foot-4 junior, scored three points off the bench and is another Bobcat that has length and mobility in the paint.

Put a check beside bench-play too when you are tabbing up what makes these Bobcats so dangerous.

Sophomore forward Randy Crisler started last season as a freshman but is working back from a knee injury suffered during football season.

“Randy gives us a great spark off the bench with how hard he plays,” said Howard. “Tate is getting better every time he plays. He’s still learning, but he’s coachable and isn’t afraid to work.”

An offensive lineman, Crisler bangs inside and scored seven points and snatched seven rebounds off the bench on Monday. The Bobcats also got eight points from junior reserve Isaiah Collins, another player that can give them minutes in the paint as he’s a physical, football player too.

Senior guard Jax Leggett is an experienced substitute that can play point guard. Freshman Jayden Poole and sophomore Tucker Kyzar are two young players who scored two points each on Monday and who’ll play a greater role for BC as their careers progress. Shakell Jenkins also added four points for the home team while grabbing six rebounds.

The lone loss of the season for the Bobcats was a 60-57 setback at Franklin County. The Bobcats will get a chance to avenge that defeat on Thursday when they host the Bulldogs at Bogue Chitto.

In a tournament hosted by McComb on Dec. 27-29, the Bobcats will face South Pike, North Pike and Natchez High in that order.

Bogue Chitto lost 63-60 to East Marion in the Region 7-2A tournament finals last season. They then made a memorable playoff run that included an epic comeback to beat Velma Jackson 85-73 in overtime on the road in the second round.

East Marion is down in the 1A ranks now and BC knows that Loyd Star (10-1) is its only competition at the top of the region this season. Loyd Star beat West Lincoln 72-37 to open region play on Monday.

Amite County (1-8) and Wilkinson County (2-9) round out the rest of Region 7-2A along with BC, Loyd Star and West Lincoln (5-8).

The loss snapped a two-game win streak for Enterprise as the Yellow Jackets and coach Rusty Newman had previously beaten Pisgah (46-41) and Salem (60-34). The victory over Salem makes the Jackets 1-0 in Region 8-1A.

Bogue Chitto defeated Enterprise 62-28 on Dec. 2 when the teams first met this season.

EAC was led off the bench by junior Tre Vining with 12 points. Reserve Patrick Pendelton also added 11 points off the bench. Ra’Jayvion Haygood added four points, Kelly Burgess scored six points, Landon McNickles added seven points and Daylan Barden scored three points for the Yellow Jackets.

The Yellow Jackets (6-6) are off until next year. They’ll return to the court on January 5 by hosting region foe Sacred Heart Catholic from Hattiesburg.