By Gene Phelps
JACKSON – No disrespect intended, but Shannon guard Xzavier Jones isn’t familiar with the South’s entries – Raymond and McComb – in this year’s MHSAA Class 4A State Tournament.
“I think we’re right there,” he said, when informed the two South schools were ranked in the state’s Top 10 – McComb No. 7 and Raymond No. 9. “I’m not putting anybody over us. We’re as strong as anybody.”
Jones and the Red Raiders (25-7) get an on-court look at Raymond (27-7) at 8 p.m. today in the state semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
“I know they’re pretty good, them and McComb,” Shannon coach Cedric Brim said. “I know some people picked Raymond to win before the season.”
The Rangers lost to McComb, 55-46, in the South finals. The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak.
Jones, who scored 21 points and connected on five 3-pointers in his team’s 52-47 win against Byhalia in the North championship game, averages 16.9 points per game.
“He can definitely shoot the basketball and open things up for us inside,” Brim said. “He’s added penatration to his game this year.”
Lots of weapons
Jones is just one of the Red Raiders’ many weapons. Point guard Rocquis Coleman (15.1 ppg) and 6-foot-5 post player Shawn Watkins (12.1 ppg) add scoring and defensive punch.
“Rocquis is our leader on the floor,” Brim said. “He’s able to dictate the pace of the game. Watkins can step out and shoot the ball. He handles the ball really well and is a good passer.”
Brim’s son, Jalen, is considered the team’s top defender. The senior guard usually draws the other team’s top scorer.
Six of the Red Raiders’ losses this season were to Northeast Mississippi powers Tupelo, West Point, Corinth and Aberdeen.
“Our guys enjoy playing a strong schedule and it’s helped them improve,” Brim noted.
Brim gave his team a few days off last week to rest up. He’s pleased with their play headed into today’s game.
“We’re playing well and communicating a lot better on defense and offense,” he said. “Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”
• Who: Shannon (25-7) vs. Raymond (27-7)
• What: Boys 4A State Semifinals
• When: 8 p.m., today
• Where: Mississippi Coliseum, Jackson
PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Shannon: G Rocquis Coleman (15.1 ppg), G Xzavier Jones (16.9 ppg), P Shawn Watkins (12.1 ppg), G Jalen Brim, F Brice Ford.
• Raymond: G James Jordan (16.2 ppg), G Ron Davis (14.9).
NEXT: Winner plays Byhalia or McComb on Saturday for the state championship.