HS BASKETBALL: Bearcats boys eager to get defensive

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Jason McKay will be surprised if his basketball team has another lackluster performance tonight.
In a rematch of the Feb. 20 North Tournament championship game, McKay’s Bearcats (30-4) will play West Bolivar (24-8) for the Class 2A state title tonight at 8:30 at the Mississippi Coliseum.
It’s the second of two state championship boys games today. Ingomar plays McAdams for the Class 1A title at 2:30 p.m.
In Friday’s MHSAA Class 2A state semifinal game, the Baldwyn boys struggled with their shooting, but were able to score enough points in the end to defeat Loyd Star, 57-55.
On its home floor, Baldwyn defeated West Bolivar 56-50 to win the North tournament title and become the North’s top seed in the state tournament.
“Our guys have pretty much risen to the challenge all year round,” said McKay, whose team is looking to win the school’s first hoops title since his Baldwyn playing days in 1986 and 1987. “The other night we didn’t play well. I don’t know why.
“We played about two good weeks of really good basketball since the playoffs started. Were we due a bad game? I don’t know.
“I will be surprised if our kids will bring a bad game this time around.”
McKay sees tonight’s championship game as being a defensive battle.
“There’s not going to be a lot of possessions for each team,” he said. “Because there are not going to be a lot of possessions, both teams are going to have to value the basketball.”
McKay said West Bolivar is one of the best defensive teams he’s coached against, putting a premium on getting off to a good start.
The Bearcats are not too shabby on defense, either. They come into tonight’s game having held their opponents to 50 points or less in 10 games this season.
“We talk a lot about team defense,” McKay said. “A lot of times when you hear people talking about playing team ball, you think of offense. But team defense is our team ball.
“Our guys seem to help each other on the defensive end. They seem to take on kind of a personal challenge with the guys they’re guarding. They’re not letting them have a good game. They’re not letting people get a lot of points.”

Ingomar vs. McAdams
Ingomar coach Norris Ashley says it will be all right if McAdams point guard Patrick Lewis scores 25 points against them.
But if Lewis’ supporting cast starts to score at will and drain 3s, then the longtime coach says his team will be in trouble in today’s 2:30 p.m. MHSAA Class 1A title game.
“He’s their leading scorer,” Ashley said of McAdams’ Lewis (20.9 points per game), “but we gotta shut the other four guys out. If we keep them from getting good looks at the goal and shooting the 3s, our chances will be a whole lot better.”
Ashley can cite his son’s team’s semifinal game against McAdams last Friday as a good indicator of what happens when John Allen, Alexander Mosley and others get hot for the Bulldogs.
Allen and Mosley each hit four 3s in the Bulldogs’ 68-65 semifinal win over Myrtle, coached by Jonathan Ashley.
The Myrtle players “sagged off” the McAdams players they were guarding in order to concentrate on stopping the penetration of Lewis.
Lewis, however, would pass the ball out to the perimeter where the McAdams shooters would have virtually uncontested shots.
Ashley said his Ingomar team will play man-to-man defense and will have a defender assigned to each of McAdams’ 3-point shooters. Steven Foster and Makenzie Stout will be responsible for covering Lewis.
He added that if anyone is to help out on stopping the penetration of Lewis, it will have to be 6-foot-7 center Zach Carnell.
“We gotta stay a little closer to the 3-point shooters and cross our fingers and hope,” said the Ingomar coach.

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com