Franklin County to face Senatobia today in semi

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

MEADVILLE &045; You can almost see the pain in their faces.

Taking these guys out of practice on Friday &045; even for just a minute &045; made them get a little antsy. Their heads turned to watch the scrimmage on the floor and their words trailed off as a teammate made a good play.

For Deandre Cameron, Jasper O’Quinn and Jonathan Brooks, the trio of senior guards at Franklin County, on the court is the only place to be. It’s where they’ve been since they started playing together in eighth grade five years ago.

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&uot;Playing with these guys, it’s like family,&uot; O’Quinn said.

&uot;We’ve been playing together since eighth grade. I don’t even remember playing without these guys,&uot; Brooks said.

On the floor they do look like family. O’Quinn’s powerful frame usually brings the ball up court and drives into the lane, opening up shots for his brothers out on the wing or the Bulldogs’ crew of big men down low.

Add in starting forward Deandre Davis and backup guard Brandon McCoy, both seniors, and the Bulldogs (23-7) have a group who have led the way to a Class 3A South State Championship and a trip to Jackson for the State Tournament, where they will take on Senatobia (25-9) in the semifinal round at 8 p.m. today.

&uot;This group has been easy to coach,&uot; Franklin County head coach Chris Jordan said. &uot;They know their roles. I’ve had teams before that might have had more talent, but this group does what they’re capable of and works together. It’s been an enjoyable year even if we don’t win another game.&uot;

Which isn’t to say the Bulldogs aren’t intent on winning another game. Yet winning their division and a South State championship over a tough Choctaw Central team is nothing to be ashamed of. When the season started, Jordan wasn’t sure how well his team would do.

&uot;I knew they’d be pretty good, but I also knew our division would be good,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;We didn’t dominate anybody, but our division made us better. Any of them were capable of being where we’re at.&uot;

But those teams aren’t where Franklin County is. Franklin County steamrolled through the Division 7-3A Tournament and the South State Tournament. Now the Bulldogs are headed to the Jackson Coliseum to play in the state tournament, what O’Quinn described as &uot;a dream.&uot;

&uot;It means everything to me,&uot; Brooks said. &uot;To go there, it’s what we’ve been working for.

Jordan says he’s happy his team gets the chance to play in Jackson.

&uot;We went and saw a game Tuesday and we’ll go early so they can get some shooting in,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;Our seniors won’t ever get a chance to go back and none of them have experienced it. In 1997 we lost in the state final, but I don’t even have a tape of that to show them.&uot;

For the team’s seniors, it’s the time of year when their own basketball mortality comes to mind. Win or lose, the season will be over this week.

&uot;I wish it wasn’t over. The fun’s almost over,&uot; Cameron said.

The team’s success is all the more unusual because only one of the team’s starters, Cameron, has expressed serious interest in playing college basketball.

O’Quinn, Brooks and Davis have all signed letters-of-intent to play college football and leading scorer Marcus Tillman, a junior, is an even better defensive end for the football team than he is a power forward in basketball.

&uot;It’s strange to be this good and none of them are going to play basketball next year,&uot; Jordan said. &uot;They’re just winners. If you could teach them to play hockey, they’d win at that too.&uot;

There aren’t any plans to start a Franklin County hockey team in the immediate future, but it’s that attitude and the group’s success at their athletic endeavors that have made them strong. All four seniors were starters on this year’s Bulldog football team that made it to the state semifinals before falling. That experience in football has also given them added incentive this time around.

&uot;We don’t want to do that two times in a row, lose in the state playoffs,&uot; O’Quinn said.

Against Senatobia, the Bulldogs will have their hands full. The Warriors are the only team this season to beat highly regarded Holly Springs (32-1), the North State champion and No. 1 in the Clarion-Ledger 3A poll.

&uot;They’re good but they’re not unbeatable,&uot; Brooks said. &uot;We just have to play our game.&uot;

Jordan said the trio of guards would be crucial in combating Senatobia’s quickness.

After a short stint on the sidelines, the trio went back in to the scrimmage at Friday’s practice, running up and down the floor in a few last preparations for what could be the final game of their careers.