By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Since Senior Night, the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” often blared out from the Pontotoc High gymnasium speakers.
The hit record would be played during warmups before Pontotoc High boys basketball games, and even during timeouts of games.
“It has become our theme song,” said Pontotoc coach Jon Ginn, who heard the song for the first time when it was played at a home game honoring his seniors last month.
The upbeat song also seemed to symbolize the feeling the Pontotoc High boys basketball team had leading up to this season, which eventually turned into the school’s first State Tournament appearance.
The Warriors had 10 players coming back with significant experience and the talent to be among the state’s final four teams competing for a state championship.
“We graduated one senior off last year’s team that was 20-11 and was runner-up in the division behind Shannon,” Ginn said Wednesday. “Going into the summer we felt this could be a tremendous year.”
But, as Ginn and Co. know, looking good on paper doesn’t guarantee success.
Not in the plans
Out of those 10 returning players with experience, five are no longer with the team.
“Some decided that they weren’t going to play this year,” Ginn said.
Instead of having 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-4 players in the post, as originally planned, Ginn’s team had to rely on 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-1 players with no experience.
Adrian Potter is a 6-2 junior forward who dressed for the varsity last season but didn’t play much. Shaq Crayton is a 6-1 sophomore forward who wasn’t on the varsity roster.
So naturally, it was going to take the Warriors longer to develop into the State Tournament team it appeared to be prior to the season starting.
“We got the two or three guys with no experience on the job training,” Ginn said.
Despite experiencing their “share of setbacks” this season, the Warriors enter the MHSAA Class 4A State Tournament having won 21 games and the Class 4A North Tournament championship.
“Those guys have been playing right now like they’ve been there all year long,” Ginn said of his State Tournament semifinal team. “It just took them a while to get there.”
‘Fun time to be a Warrior’
Ginn said he has heard the “I Gotta Feeling” song almost a hundred times now thanks to it being played constantly during the 4A North Tournament that Pontotoc hosted last week. That’s enough times for the 43-year-old coach to find himself singing it in his head.
Despite the song being a catchy tune – a party anthem if you will – it has provided an emotional, perhaps even spiritual, lift to his team.
“During a timeout, our whole student section will be singing it,” Ginn said. “It will put chills on you.”
Because of the song’s popularity among Warrior nation, T-shirts, borrowing from the song’s chorus, have been made for Warriors fans.
The front of the shirt reads “I got a feeling,” while the back includes the players’ names, commemorates the North Tournament championship and reads, “It’s going to be a good night in the Big House.”
More than 300 T-shirts have already sold, said Ginn, which shows how much of a buzz the most successful season for the Pontotoc boys basketball program has created among the community.
“It’s the talk of the town right now,” the Pontotoc coach said of his team’s first trip to the state tournament in Jackson. “We’re going to have a great crowd to follow us down there.
“Our school has really been energized by all of this. It’s really a fun time to be a Warrior.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org