CITY’S SLEEPY WILDCATS ARE READY TO AWAKEN
There were more upsets than a Rolaids commercial leading up to the North Half basketball tournaments which start Friday.
Five of the boys teams ranked in last week’s Daily Journal poll, Alcorn Central, Shannon, Baldwyn, Myrtle, and Jumpertown have been eliminated, along with six girls teams: Alcorn Central, Tremont, Lafayette County, Baldwyn, Calhoun City and Bruce. Another team in the girls top 10, Marshall Academy, made it to the Academy Class AA state tournament before losing.
A lot of those eliminated were ousted by unranked teams. Most of the winners were genuine contenders. Notable are the Tishomingo County and Nettleton girls and the Biggersville and Calhoun City boys.
Yet, Calhoun City may be the biggest sleeper of the area. When the Wildcats beat Aberdeen a few weeks ago to go 5-9. people wondered what happened to a Aberdeen. When the Wildcats beat No. 8 Baldwyn (25-7) Tuesday 67-64 on a Jonathan Herod 3-pointer to advance to the North 2A semifinals at Mooreville, the record had improved to 12-12.
Wildcat coach Trey Hamby apprenticed four years as a manager for Mississippi State coach Richard Williams. He says he knew his team had the makings of a playoff team.
“We have surprised a whole bunch of people since half my team played junior high basketball last year, and we are a win away from Jackson. It’s a weird feeling, but we’ve got the athletes,” Hamby said.
Every player on his 15-man squad was dressed for the Class 2A championship football game Dec. 4, and Hamby was coaching. Basketball practice started Dec. 6. The first game was Dec. 7. Five losses were by four points or less. They went 1-8 before the squad that starts two freshmen, two sophomores and junior forward David West found its basketball legs.
The top two scorers are freshmen: 6-3 center Bernard Sykes (14 ppg, 13 rpg) and 6-3 three guard David Draine (18 ppg).
Sophomore guards Jody Jennings and Herod round out the balanced lineup. Hamby said there has been only one game since Christmas that five players failed to score in double figures.
While Hamby uses a lot of the Williams sets and drills, he said his players can run.
“What makes us so tough is we can play fast and slow. We can play any tempo,” he said.
The Wildcats will be trying to break above .500 for the first time this year when they take on Shelby Broad Street (26-9), coached by one of the top coaches in the state, Isaiah Peterson, whose son Ira played at MSU when Hamby was a manager.
“We are just having fun. Nobody expected us to be here. We can just go out and play,” Hamby said.
Crystal Ball Gazing
Calhoun City will make it to Jackson possibly as the No. 3 team, as will the other area 2A survivor Mooreville at No. 2.
The shake up in the playoffs has given a different look to what’s ahead for this week. My projections:
North 5A Boys: Tupelo (17-14), a mystery team all year, struggling with plenty of talent, seems to have found the missing ingredient, confidence. Makes Jackson as No. 1 North seed.
North 4A Boys: No. 3 Oxford (24-6) may have the area’s best first five; No. 1 North seed, Houston No. 3.
North 4A Girls: Area’s No. 1 Lady Chargers (29-20) may face toughest hurdle for a state championship in first game against Cleveland East Side (30-3), but have homecourt edge. Tishomingo County (24-8) should upset Pearl (21-6) and advance as No. 2 seed behind Oxford.
North 3A Boys: Area’s top team, New Albany (29-3) will weather a Senatobia storm Saturday to advance as No. 1 seed.
North 2A Girls: Nettleton (18-7) has the talent
in the four Jones girls and Letesha Seals to pull a major upset, but state’s No. 1 team, West Tallahatchie (30-0) may be too much. Host Hatley (28-3) will finish as No. 2 seed and Nettleton No. 3.
North 1A Girls: The only all-area tournament at West Union. The West Union girls (26-4) No. 1, Hickory Flat (22-7) No. 2 and Smithville (21-9) No. 3. East Webster (23-7) is the odd team out.
North 1A Boys: Falkner (20-8) and Biggersville (22-9), should battle for top seed Saturday and West Clay (19-12) will advance by Moor.
Mike Talbert is a sports writer for the Daily Journal.