Prep basketball season off to rocky start

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, December 10, 2020

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NATCHEZ — The beginning of the 2020-2021 high school basketball season has been a topsy-turvy one for the local teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing several games to be canceled.

Adams County Christian School, Cathedral High School, and Natchez High School have each had close to a half-dozen games canceled already due to other schools’ teams having players either testing positive for COVID-19 or coming in close contact with someone who has.

Natchez High School

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The Natchez High Lady Bulldogs have been able to play just three games so far this season and are currently 2-1 following their first loss of the season Tuesday night at home to the McComb High School Lady Tigers 61-40.

“Normally we would have played 10 games. You never know what team will call and tell us that we can’t play. We’ve been dealing with that,” Lady Bulldogs head coach Alphaka Moore said. “Trying to keep the kids upbeat and encouraged, especially the seniors. It’s been a challenge. We’ve had five games canceled altogether because they’re non-district games. The whole thing is challenging.”

Several players have stepped up so far for the Lady Bulldogs, including seniors Kelsey McNeal and Kyla Butler. Moore said that McNeal, a shooting guard, is averaging between 17 and 20 points a game while Butler, a forward, is averaging 10 points and seven rebounds a game.

“We’ve had some underclassmen (also) step up,” Moore said. “Destiny Scott, a junior shooting guard/point guard. Olivia Davis, she’s a sophomore shooting guard/small forward. Nya Poole, she just stated playing with us. She’s a sophomore and she’s our point guard.”

Moore said that she has a lot of freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are looking forward to helping the Lady Bulldogs as the season goes forward.

As for how having so many games canceled already has had an affect on the players, Moore said, “Trying to keep them in shape, keep them motivated. Whether you’re going to be able to play or not. Trying to manage the best we can under the circumstances.”

The Natchez High Bulldogs have played just four games to date this season. Their record is 3-1 after losing a close game to the McComb Tigers.

“We lost last by one point (43-42) in overtime to McComb,” Bulldogs head coach David Haywood said. “But we have had three or four games canceled. With the cancellation of games, you prepare yourselves a couple of days before the game and the day before you get a call. You get down on yourself. The players are like, ‘I’m ready to play.’ The lack of playing games is nothing like game experience. You don’t know how your team will respond.”

Haywood said his team needs the games before Region 6-5A play begins later this season, adding, “Hopefully, we won’t have too many cancellations.”

Among those who have gotten off to a good start so far this season are senior guard/forward Trevon Jackson, who is averaging close to 18 points a game, and sophomore guard Kameron Carter.

“He has good court vision and makes high-IQ decisions. He’s averaging seven or eight assists a game to go with his 11 points a game. He plays the two guard,” Haywood said about Carter. “But (Tuesday) night, we didn’t play up to our abilities.”

As for how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected not only the players but also practice, Haywood said, “We do a lot of competitive drills. We try not to spend a lot of time thinking about it or talking about it. If a team calls, they’re probably canceling because of exposure. We don’t’ want anyone on our team to get exposed to it. We want everyone on our team to stay safe. We were supposed to play Jefferson County on Friday, but that has been canceled.”

Adams County Christian School

The Adams County Christian School Lady Rebels have played five games so far this season and are 3-2 overall. ACCS’s games at Centreville Academy that were scheduled for last Tuesday were canceled, Lady Rebels head coach Melanie Hall said.

“Thankfully we’ve been able to play the games that we have. We had several games that have been canceled. And one has been rescheduled,” Hall said.

ACCS’s home games against Wilkinson County Christian Academy that was originally scheduled for Nov. 23 have been rescheduled for Saturday, Dec. 19.

“So far we’ve been able to play all our games that we’ve had. We haven’t had to cancel any on our part. It is different times,” Hall said.

Seniors Halle Peterman, Drue Boyd and Maliyah Ford have played a big role in the Lady Rebels’ season so far, which started with a loss at WCCA on Nov. 10.

“We’ve had several girls who’ve stepped up,” Hall said. “Halle has had several double-doubles in scoring and rebounding. Drue has stepped up all around offensively and defensively at point guard. Maliyah. My seniors have stepped up.”

Hall added that the freshmen, sophomore and juniors on the team have also stepped up their games.

“They’ve been working hard and giving each other a lot of encouragement. Like I always say, ‘To God be the glory.’ I can’t emphasize enough how thankful I am to be playing,” Hall said.

As for how having so many games canceled has had an affect on her team, Hall said, “It’s hard on the kids because they want to play. It’s difficult when you practice, practice, practice and you want to play. That’s life. That’s adversity. How do you handle that adversity? Everybody’s had a good attitude. It is what it is. Roll with it.”

The ACCS Rebels have played four games this season — all against public schools from Louisiana. And they are off to a 3-1 start

“We’ve played Delta Charter twice. We won both of those. We’ve played Pine High School, a public high school, and Carroll High School, a public school out of Monroe, La.,” Rebels head coach Matthew Freeman said. “Centreville Academy canceled twice. Riverfield Academy canceled. Parklane Academy canceled. We lost a couple of games due to football restrictions or COVID restrictions.”

As to how COVID-19 itself has affected the schedule so far, Freeman said, “It’s so unknown. We don’t really know. We were going to MRA (Madison-Ridgeland Academy) and play the Patriots. The boys were geared up to play the No. 1 team in the MAIS and, bam, they canceled at the last minute,” Freeman said. “Practice schedule has been fine. We’re still practicing as is.”

Freeman noted that he’s call 30 schools, both public and private, to get someone to take on his Rebels. But so far, not many have been to say yes because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases throughout Mississippi and Louisiana. One team that did say yes was Jefferson County High School.

“We play at Jefferson County on Dec. 12. It is junior varsity boys and varsity boys only. The JV boys game starts at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity boys’ game,” Freeman said. “The games will be played at either Alcorn State or Jefferson County.”

Freeman noted that to his knowledge, this will be the first-ever meeting between ACCS and Jefferson County in boys’ basketball.

The Rebels have been led so far this season by senior point guard Josh Credit, junior shooting guard Tiqi Griffin, and freshman small forward Tyson Young.

“Josh scored 35 the other night against Pine High School and is averaging 25 points a game, and Tiqi Griffin, a junior shooting guard, scored 34 the other night, is averaging 26 points a game,” Freeman said. “Tyson had 12 the other night and is averaging 14 points a game.”

ACCS’s varsity boys’ team began a stretch of three games in three days with a home game against Parklane Academy, followed by road games against Riverfield Academy and Jefferson County

“I think it’s important for our conditioning. We’re not in basketball shape yet. I’m looking forward to that. I think it’s good to play three games in three days,” Freeman said.

Cathedral High School

Both the Cathedral High School Lady Green Wave and Green Wave have played four games this season. While the Green Wave is off to a 2-2 start this season, the Lady Green Wave is 0-4 so far.

For the most part, the first two weeks of the 2020-2021 season was kind to Cathedral as far its schedule was concerned. Only two games for both varsity teams were canceled — home vs. Central Hinds Academy on Nov. 19 and against Parklane Academy at the Brookhaven Academy Tournament on Nov. 24.

The Green Wave’s two wins came on the road — at Centreville Academy in it season-opener on Nov. 17 (55-48) and on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at Central Hinds Academy (65-64).

But since playing Central Hinds over a week ago, Cathedral has yet to get back on the basketball court. The Monterey Tournament, which was scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4, was canceled after the Superintendent of the Concordia Parish School Board, principals, athletic directors, and basketball coaches collectively agreed to play district games only starting in January because of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Concordia Parish. That decision was made at the beginning of the month.

When asked what his reaction was when he found out that the Monterey Tournament was not taking place, Green Wave head coach Taylor Strahan said, “It’s kind of like what we expected. Every game we get to play is a blessing.”

Not only that, but Thursday’s home games against Centreville Academy and Saturday’s games at Jackson Academy have also been canceled — perhaps for now, anyway. Cathedral doesn’t play again until Friday, Dec. 18 when it plays host to Porter’s Chapel Academy.

“It’s pretty much just problems with the other teams. Somebody’s exposed. We decided to be safe,” Strahan said. “A bunch of hose have been moved to January.”

As for how the games being canceled has affected his team, Strahan said, “For us, it’s disappointing due to how young we are. Every game, every practice is very important. We’ve had eight or nine practices. Normally, we’ve had 12 games and 25 practices. If it’s one year to happen to us, it would be this year.”

While Strahan said the Green Wave has a lot of sophomores on his team, one player who has stepped up is junior guard Christian Wright.

“He’s averaging 27 points a game. Everyone else is playing on the same level. We’re struggling on defense. We’re struggling to score, expect for Christian,” Strahan said.

Efforts to reach Lady Green Wave head coach Bernita Dunbar for comments on this story were unsuccessful.