Braves roll into Saturday’s game at Southern
Published 12:00 am Friday, February 28, 2003
LORMAN &045; The atmosphere was akin to a family reunion Monday: food, family, friends and good music.
The only thing that made it more enjoyable was a win by the Alcorn State Braves. And not only was it a win, it was a win over Alabama State, their sixth win in their last seven games and a win that keeps them in the hunt for a home game to open the SWAC tournament.
The real reason was for the final regular season home game for veteran head coach Davey Whitney, but the way the Braves are playing he might get another game in the building that shares his namesake.
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The Braves have three games left: Saturday at Southern and a road trip next week to Texas Southern and Prairie View to finish the regular season.
&uot;That’s what it’s really all about,&uot; junior forward Dion Callans said. &uot;Coach Whitney and Jeff Cammon &045; he lost his last year of eligibility &045; we wanted to play that last game for Coach Whitney and Jeff Cammon. We were just hyped up and ready to play. Alabama State was laughing at us when they beat us at their place. We had a long time to think about it.&uot;
Whitney was honored before the game by the university with a brief ceremony that included his wife and family. The game marked the final regular season game at home for legendary coach, who notched his 500th win at Alcorn earlier this season after surpassing the 500-win mark for his career three seasons ago.
&uot;What was important to me was we had picked up our game and played well,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;That was the most important thing to me. The rest of it was icing on the cake. It’s nice for people to honor you and everything, but the game was important to me. I thought our kids played extremely well defensively in the second half.&uot;
What’s more important than that to Whitney is the Braves &045; who could have been mistaken for dead after an 0-4 start &045; now have a chance to claim the No. 2 spot in the conference tournament.
And if Saturday’s 69-50 win over a team that beat them handily earlier in the season is any indication, the Braves are playing much better ball.
&uot;We didn’t shoot the ball well when we played up there, and we’re starting to get together as a unit,&uot; forward Brian Jackson. &uot;We know we’ve got to go out and play our ball and basically end up in the top four &045; maybe the top two or three. We’ll try to get another one in here for coach and the seniors. That’ll make it pretty much easy for us, too.&uot;
The Braves (9-6, 11-16) sit behind Alabama State, Prairie View, Texas Southern and first-place Mississippi Valley in the standings, but the dominoes will have to fall somewhere this weekend and the next.
Alabama State (9-5, 12-12) visits Prairie View (10-4, 12-11) Saturday and Texas Southern (9-5, 13-10). Then the two teams turn around and play Alcorn the following weekend after both beat the Braves in Lorman to start the conference schedule.
&uot;If the right things happen, we can go in second place,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;That’s what’s important for us. We’ve come a long way in a short time. I look at it like this: Texas Southern beat us by one, and Prairie View beat us by seven. We have to go out and play well. They can be beat, but we’ll have to go out and play well. We can play with them, and that’s the main thing. We’ll take it one game at a time, and Southern is a dangerous ball club.&uot;
Southern (5-10, 8-16), like Alcorn, is also playing much better ball than it did earlier in the season, and the Jaguars are almost a lock for the eighth and final spot for the SWAC tournament.
So the Braves will take it one game at a time, but the big picture doesn’t include just the three remaining regular season games.
&uot;These are big right here &045; the last six,&uot; said Callans in reference to the SWAC tourney. &uot;We want to go 6-0 and go out the SWAC champions. I think we’re going to come out on top. I think we’re the best team in the conference. And the best thing is nobody knows about it.&uot;