By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
The Mooreville Troopers are off to their best start in seven years, but head coach Jeff Tally’s not celebrating.
“You never enjoy winning until after the season,” said Tally, 54, who has coached 23 seasons at his alma mater, 10 as the head coach. “Winning’s a lot better than losing, but there’s still the pressure and stress that goes with the job.”
The basketball Troopers head into the short Christmas break with an 11-1 record.
One of those wins is over Nettleton in Division 2-3A play while the lone loss is to defending 3A state champion Booneville.
The Troopers’ 2003-04 team started 12-0 and finished 27-6, losing in the opening round of the state playoffs.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids and winning is new to them,” Tally said. “At times we’ve played pretty well, but we’re going to get tested in a couple of weeks.
“It’s going to be a tough road after Christmas.”
Mooreville plays 2A power Baldwyn Dec. 29 in the Baldwyn Rotary Classic. The next night, the Troopers play 4A North Pontotoc in the Booneville Kiwanis Classic.
Tally’s lineup features eight full-time players.
Kelsey Scott, a 6-foot-1 junior, who transferred from South Pontotoc, is averaging 15.9 points per game.
He’s joined by 6-5 Austin Timms, who’s averaging 13.7 points.
“Scott is a basketball player,” Tally said. “He can handle the ball, shoot it, rebound and play defense. He’s an overall player. Timms can create shots, something we’ve been missing in the past.”
Errick Dilworth, Quadzing Rogers and Devon Bartlett give the Troopers some power inside. The 6-2, 270-pound Rogers is a football player.
Kelton Kingsley’s a 6-3 guard who gives the team a solid spot-up shooter while Zack Sisk and Aerkies Berry handle the point guard chores.
“We’re more team-oriented this year,” Tally said. “Any of them can score.”
RED RAIDERS ROLLING
Mooreville’s not the only Lee County boys team to enjoy pre-Christmas success.
Shannon, coached by a former Mooreville player and coach, Cedric Brim, has opened with a 10-1 record with wins against Tupelo, New Hope and Ashland.
“This is one of the best starts we’ve had,” said Brim, who’s in his fifth season.
The Class 4A Red Raiders are winning games with defense, the coach noted.
“We can get a whole lot better,” he said. “We’ve played defense fairly well. The players are buying into what we do.
“When you’re playing man-to-man defense … you stop your man.”
Lakee Westbrook, a 6-1 junior guard, and Javon Green, a 5-10 senior guard, have been the leaders. Westbrook’s averaging 16.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while Green is averaging 16.0 points per game.
“They’re running the team,” Brim said. “They’re making sure everybody’s where they need to be.”
The remainder of the lineup features 6-5 forward Jarvonte Ivy, 6-1 guard/forward Jermaine Gilliam and 6-1 guard Lamarcus Doss. All three are averaging nearly 10 points per game.
“We’ve got some players who can do some things offensively,” Brim said. “We’ve got to rebound and do the things that give us chances to score.”