After stunning district tournaments, three boys’ teams enter playoffs
Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2004
Cathedral head coach Bobby Holder had high expectations for his team &045; one that won just three games last year.
Regardless of the past, he has expectations. With a team that had four seniors but not much tradition to build on, the veteran coach in his second year at CHS said he took things slow at the start of the season &045; wins and losses before the Christmas wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans no matter how the games went.
But the Green Wave took a couple of impressive wins during the regular season before turning it on at the tournament to get into the playoffs. Now it’s a matter of maintaining that intensity as the Wave hosts Union at 7 p.m. today with a shot at the South State tournament on the line.
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Jefferson County and Natchez High also open the playoffs tonight.
&uot;It was just a matter of getting everything down,&uot; senior point guard Russell Barmer said. &uot;We worked hard all year. I think in the tournament everybody was a little more pumped up. Everybody plays their best in the tournament. (Holder) has definitely made it more enjoyable. He’s a real good coach, and he’s taught us a lot of fundamental things. He kept us together as a team and gave us a winning attitude.&uot;
The Green Wave has been the biggest surprise of the basketball season in the Miss-Lou after finishing fifth in the region standings in the regular season. But none of that &045; like that stretch before Christmas &045; really mattered until it all came down to the tournament.
That’s when the Green Wave turned it on and put everything together before falling in the finals.
&uot;We don’t look at records,&uot; Holder said. &uot;We’ve been playing against ourselves for three-fourths of the season, and that means playing against our own stats and trying to improve on what we do on the floor. For the last eight or 10 games we’ve started to play against the opponent. We’ve been able to get scouting reports and try to adjust to our offense and defense to what tendencies the other team has. That’s enjoyable to me &045; playing chess with what the other team does.&uot;
That’s been part of the learning curve for the Green Wave in its second season under Holder. The process has been long &045; and it’s at a point where it’s just starting to reap benefits &045; but things are starting to come around at the right time.
And it was perhaps just a one-game-at-a-time approach. The team’s four seniors were pivotal in an opening-round win over St. Aloysius, and that was kind of the shot in the arm the team really needed.
&uot;That first game against St. Al, we knew if we beat them we’d be in,&uot; senior forward Jonathan Jackson said. &uot;We knew we could get past St. Al, get past West Lincoln and get in the championship. (St. Al) had those three good shooters, and I think they came into the game like, ‘We can beat Cathedral.’ I guess we kind of shocked them a little bit. We’re going to try our best to keep it going and go to the big tournament.&uot;
Jackson and Turner Smith, both seniors, know perhaps more than anybody that the team’s strength has lied in its ability to get on the boards. That’s what worked in the first two wins in the tournament, and it’s what Holder has preached most of the season.
Both players might not be able to match up with some of the bigger players, but &045; as most coaches would say &045; getting rebounds is mostly about who wants the ball the most.
&uot;I have to attribute our improved play to our senior leadership,&uot; Holder said. &uot;They’ve all stepped up at various times on the court. Turner had a good game one time, Jonathan had a good game one time, Russell had a good game and Eric Lee came off the bench and had a good game. That’s where it’s supposed to be. They are doing the things seniors are supposed to do at this time of the year. They’re real good examples.&uot;
Tonight’s test will be a good one for the Wave against Union, a team that knocked off a good Thomastown team in its region tournament to get to the playoffs. Union finished as the No. 3 team in the tournament.
&uot;Once you get to the playoffs, you may lose the first game or go all the way,&uot; Holder said. &uot;You never know, but getting there is the goal. They have a very solid team. The coaches I’ve talked to say they’re very good at executing their offense and defense.&uot;
Said Barmer: &uot;We’re in our gym. We’ll try to step it up a little bit. We always play better at home.&uot;
Jefferson County at Crystal Springs
The Tigers had to step it up at the biggest time of the season &045; a consolation win over Amite County on Friday night gave them the No. 3 seed and kept them from opening the playoffs at Prentiss and facing big Al Jefferson.
The win was redemption for Thursday’s stunning loss to Port Gibson, the lowest seeded team in the tournament.
&uot;After playing Thursday night in a game they felt they should have won, they came out and tried to execute some things we’ve been working on all along,&uot; JC head coach Marcus Walton said. &uot;That was to get our up-tempo style going, defend and rebound. It’s been very inconsistent this year. We have some good spurts, and we have some bad spurts.
&uot;Inconsistency comes from a lack of concentration &045; not being mentally focused. We’re not mentally focused from start to finish. The talent is there. It’s just a lack of concentration throughout a ball game.&uot;
The Tigers hope to get things on track for tonight’s game at Crystal Springs, the team that lost to Jefferson and that Prentiss club in the finals Friday. Crystal Springs has been impressive most of the year with its speed and transition game, and it beat Jefferson County twice during the regular season.
&uot;I’m hoping Crystal Springs caught us early in the season when we weren’t in rhythm,&uot; Walton said. &uot;They put a lot of pressure on us the last time we played. Their transition from defense to offense is very good. They advance the ball up the floor very quickly.&uot;
Natchez at Ocean Springs
The Bulldogs are the other surprise story in boys’ basketball this week after they netted a huge first-round upset of Forest Hill to get in the finals of the Division 6-5A tournament and lock up a playoff spot.
The win put the team back in the playoffs following a one-year hiatus. Despite the loss in the finals to Warren Central, the Bulldogs still enter the game playing their best ball of the year after a strong finish to the regular season.