By Brandon Speck
Baldwyn didn’t get to the state tournament when Reenetra Pippin played for the Lady Bearcats.
She’s been to Jackson twice as an assistant, but the 1997 Baldwyn graduate and eighth-year coach aims to get there as a head coach this season – and make sure her team is part of the Baldwyn tradition she knows all about.
Baldwyn, ranked No. 7 in Northeast Mississippi, has been one of the surprises of Class 2A North, taking a 12-2 record into its Division 1-2A opener tonight against East Union.
“I feel like we work more as a team,” said leading scorer Timaya Stewart. “Due to practice, we’re learning how to rotate the ball more to get better shots. I think that’s helping us throughout the games.”
Stewart averages 17 points per game. Haley Sandlin and Keontra Tyes are the next two leading scorers.
Baldwyn’s last three seasons have ended in a Thursday North tournament game, each by a single point.
Getting past that has a formula, Pippin says.
“It comes back to the small things, fundamental basketball, as much as a free throw, a block out,” she said. “We’ve been a point away. We want to get over that hump.”
The Bearcats get to see what state tournament teams look like, up close. They share a division with 2A tournament staple New Site and have already played 3A tournament regular Belmont – a 54-52 win – and lost to 4A finalist and 2012 champion Pontotoc.
Watch and learn
Baldwyn and New Site aren’t scheduled to play until Feb. 7 at Baldwyn, but could potentially meet in next weekend’s Prentiss County Tournament.
“We watch them a lot and try to learn from it,” Stewart said, “so when we do play them, we’ll know how to get through it.”
Baldwyn went to the state tournament a year after Pippin graduated. She’s hoping not to miss the next trip.
Pippin said before the season, she’d like to get the girls program where the boys are, the defending 2A champions and state finalists three of the last four seasons.
“We have a mission and a vision and we’re just trying to stick to that,” Pippin said, “and stay together and work hard.
“The tradition at Baldwyn, all our sports, it’s like it’s in the air. For the kids to see it, they know it’s possible to get there. It means something when you put on that jersey. You have families that have played here. It means something to them, it’s been passed down.”