The difference between Corinth’s 15 victories last year and 30 wins this season can be attributed to a number of things.
One, the Warriors found a point guard in sophomore Deonta Herman.
The emergence of Herman as a star freed up senior post player Labrandon Scruggs to play his game inside. He responded by recording 23 double-doubles.
Finally, the Warriors played their traditionally strong brand of defense.
“Our kids know we’re going to play defense here, and they buy into it,” noted Corinth coach Keith Greene. “They don’t mind defending.”
Greene, 40, the Daily Journal’s 2009 Coach of the Year in high school basketball, said Corinth teams always defended well when he played high school hoops for Kossuth.
“They were always a good defensive team,” he recalled.
Oxford coach Drew Tyler, an Ole Miss classmate of Greene’s, said his “gym rat” buddy is a student of the game.
“Corinth was always known for its pressure defense and Keith’s stuck with that,” Tyler said. “When it gets time to get down to work, Keith Greene will do it. The kids see that and have bought into it.
“When you play Corinth, it’s 32 minutes of up-and-down basketball.”
Throw the strong defensive play in with all the other elements – including the performances of Herman and Scruggs, and the improved scoring up and down the lineup – and you can see how Corinth finished 30-5, won a North Mississippi 3A championship and earned a berth in the state tournament semifinals.
Greene, who had high expectations for his 2007-08 team, only to see it finish 15-16, thought this season’s squad would post a lot better numbers.
“We felt pretty good about this team, based on our summer play,” said the coach, who has spent 12 seasons with the Warriors program – four as head coach. “I thought 20 wins was reachable.
“I don’t think we talked about 30.”
However, Greene said he never sold his team short in the preseason.
He expected his 3A rivals – Nettleton and Ripley – to be strong. He knew beating county foes Alcorn Central and Kossuth would be “like pulling teeth.”
“I wasn’t sure where we fit until we hosted the North half up here,” he said. “I saw that these other teams, like Humphreys and East Side, were good. However, I thought we were just as good and we had the momentum of playing in our gym.”
Corinth rolled to the North title, beating North Panola, Humphreys County, Byhalia and East Side. The Warriors’ banner season ended in Jackson with a loss to eventual champion Pass Christian in the semifinals.
“They had a great year this year,” said Oxford’s Tyler. “I believe even better days are ahead.”
Gene Phelps/Daily Journal