Special to the Journal
Winning the MACJC State Tournament last week at home was a truly great thing for the Itawamba Indians basketball team.
But a head coach must focus on the task at hand.
For Indians’ coach Grant Pate, that task is a first round matchup against the Northwest Rangers today in the Region 23 Tournament at Mississippi College in Cinton.
“It’s been really exciting, but at the same time, the region tournament carries a lot of weight,” said Pate, who is in his second season at Itawamba. “Our focus is on the region tournament, our preparation is on the region tournament.”
That preparation becomes an opponent at 6 p.m. today when ICC faces Northwest. The winner of the region tournament gets an automatic berth in the national tournament.
The Indians swept the Rangers during the regular season, taking the Jan. 13 meeting 107-103 in double overtime at Senatobia, and a Feb. 6 game in Fulton, 95-83.
“We’re real similar teams, really athletic, with quality guard play,” Pate said. “We like to play in full-court transition, and both teams like to shoot the 3-pointer.
The winner will face the Pearl River-Southern Shreveport winner in Friday’s semifinals.
Itawamba is led by sophomore guards Alex Anderson at 16.8 points per game, with Johnathan McGee at 14.5 ppg. Freshman Tyrone Wooten comes in at 12.7 ppg, and sophomore post player Tory Rice from Starkville at 10.0 ppg.
Two players Pate is very familiar with on the Northwest roster are Tupelo sophomores Dajon Reno and Rashon Coleman. Reno is at 10.8 ppg, and Coleman at 9.1 ppg.
Pate coached Coleman and Reno at Tupelo, including the 2012 season, where the Golden Wave lost in overtime in the Class 6A championship game.