Champs not out yet

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

FAYETTE &045; It’s never as easy as the first time. Every champions’ goal is to slip another ring on their fingers the year after winning it all.

But from high school to college to pros, parity is common among teams and repeating is not as simple as it use to be.

Just ask Miami’s football team. Heck, just ask Marcus Walton and his Jefferson County basketball squad. The champs from 3A a year ago have started off slow, 6-8, but got a monster 70-37 win over Port Gibson at home Friday to even their mark to 2-2 in district.

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&uot;Anytime you have success like we did last year, kids at this age tend to lose focus,&uot; said Walton in his sixth year with the Tigers. &uot;But I see it as we have a bullseye on our back and everybody is after us. It’ll be doubly hard this year to have the same success.&uot;

The 33-point win avenged an earlier season loss at Port Gibson, where Jefferson County held a 10-point halftime lead, but could not withstand a furious comeback.

Not Friday, though. The Tigers took a 18-point margin to the break and never let up on Port Gibson. Dewones Smith and Juan Wyatt led the Tigers with 28 and 12, respectively.

&uot;We stress our defensive intensity and the kids showed more aggressive Friday than they had all year,&uot; Walton said. &uot;They were focused coming out of halftime and never lost their intensity at any part of the game.&uot;

A key component to his offense, Walton sat LaKendrick Harried because of disciplinary reasons Friday night. The Tigers struggled earlier this season to develop team chemistry, but Walton believes that is finally in the past.

The Tigers hope to keep the momentum rolling at Franklin County Tuesday night.

&uot;A lot of teams use us as a measuring stick. It happens a lot of times when teams beat us their crowd storms the floor for a regular season game,&uot; Walton said. &uot;We’re not going to allow that to stop us.&uot;

WELCOME BACK &045; Adams County Christian School’s Lady Rebels welcomed back the services of guard Nikki Hankins Saturday at the WCCA Shootout.

But it wasn’t in grand fashion. Hankins came off the bench and played sparingly as she recovers from an ankle injury last month.

The plan is to bring up to speed gradually.

&uot;She did a good job for her first night back,&uot; ACCS head coach Bruce Pickle said.&160;&uot;I asked her after the game, and she said her ankle wasn’t bothering her much. It’ll take her some time to get back in basketball condition. She practiced twice in the last three or four weeks.&uot;

A healthy Hankins will make a significant difference for the Lady Rebels, who could use her spark on defense especially along with the scoring she provides.

The Lady Rebels dropped a bout with Class AA Oak Forest by 30 points Saturday, and they return to action Tuesday against a tough Central Private team as district play resumes.

&uot;We wanted to play her before that district game,&uot; Pickle said. &uot;We need her scoring back, and her defense is what makes us go. She can almost guard two people when she wants to. We’ll see Tuesday.&uot;

NOT SMACK, JUST MOTIVATION &045; Sure, Central Private’s girls felt justified following a 75-43 win over Huntington Friday at the WCCA Shootout.

And the way their coach says it, the win was self-gratifying following their 51-47 loss to the Lady Hounds back in November.

The loss was motivation to play better, and the Lady Rebels (20-4) had an improved bunch since then. The win demonstrated how far they’ve come.

&uot;(Assistant) Coach Kirkwood and I threw it up in their faces several times,&uot;&160;CPS head coach Hugh Webb said. &uot;We felt we didn’t play our best that day, and we didn’t. We were pleased to have an opportunity to play them again.&uot;

The Lady Rebels didn’t have the post-holiday blues like Huntington since they were fresh off a 2-1 mark in the Parklane tournament.

Huntington, turned out, finished 0-2 at the WCCA Shootout.

&uot;We’ve had four ball games in the last eight days, and they (Huntington) came out a little flat,&uot; Webb said. &uot;They’re a better ball club than what they showed today.&uot;

EARLY FORECAST &045; Everybody knows Vidalia’s boys are a team to be reckoned with, but how will they fare in district?

Epps head coach David Patrick has a good idea since his Class B Panthers have played most teams in District 3-2A so far to prepare for their own district schedule.

The way he sees it, the Vikings could do well.

&uot;They’ve got a real good ball club &045; a little size, quickness and they can shoot,&uot; Patrick said after his team lost to Vidalia, 64-48, Thursday in the Sicily Island tournament.

&uot;They do a good job of getting it inside, and when you collapse they kick it out to the shooters. I’ve seen all the teams in the district except Ferriday. I would say they’ve got a good chance against the other three.&uot;

(Adam Daigle contributed to this report.)