Within the last four weeks, I have covered some of the teams that won or played for a state championship last season. And I was able to talk to the respective head coaches at length after each contest.
This particular effort is on the Baldwyn Bearcats, a Class 2A finalist from last season, and a team that began this season 19-0 before losing Saturday to the Booneville Blue Devils 55-54 on a last-second shot in the championship game of the Prentiss County Tournament.
But to back up from that contest, for Baldwyn to have worked its way through the season up to this point undefeated was significant because of the early season-ending injury to senior guard Dee Gates.
To me experience is crucial to most post-season successes in any sport, and Gates certainly would have provided that come February.
“I’m not teaching my kids to find excuses,” Baldwyn head coach Jason McKay said. “With the schedule we’ve got, we’re going to take some on the chin.
“Dee is still with us on the floor, helping us win basketball games. I hope through the good and bad, we’re building a strong foundation for the players.”
McKay is certainly not making excuses, which would be easy for Baldwyn going back to the 2011-12 season.
Star forward Reggie Patterson hurt his knee during football season, and did not play. And big man Diquan Agnew had an appendectomy, and missed the last month of the season.
“You can’t dwell on things you can’t control,” McKay said. “I believe we are blessed and fortunate.”
To Patterson’s credit, he is currently enrolled at Northeast, and might be able to play at the junior college level in the 20-13-14 season. And, the former Bearcat is at almost every Baldwyn contest, still trying to help his Bearcats.
And on the court for Baldwyn, senior Tevin Lindsey and junior Martell Brown are among those certainly holding up the tradition of basketball success at this school.
Post-Booneville, the road for the Bearcats does not get any easier.
Friday, they host Corinth, certainly one of the top teams in the area this season.
Saturday, they travel to New Albany to face 6A Tupelo, this biggest school in this corner of the state in the Hot Bed Classic.
A word here that the Hot Bed certainly tries to pair teams that are not scheduled against each other. Of late, that means an area team versus a team not from this area.
But in this case, Tupelo vs. Baldwyn is a great pairing. I am pretty sure that McKay faced Tupelo a time or two when he played for the Bearcats, and I can even remember the Coleman brothers squaring off against Tupelo in the old Baldwyn Tournament of Champions at the old Baldwyn gym.
And then the last week of the regular season, there is a rematch with Booneville Feb. 7, hosted by the Bearcats. Certainly, this game will be hard pressed to live up to the Prentiss County final, but it would be great if it does.
And win or lose, Baldwyn should certainly be a force in the upcoming 2A post-season. They will be well-tested for that, in more ways than one.
David Wheeler has been contributing to the high school sports coverage of the Daily Journal since 1985.