Area teams fill various district bracket competition

Staff Writer

It’s time for district tournament basketball inside the area as the records go to 0-0 and everyone has a renewed feeling of optimism for their season as they head to neutral sites.

Choctaw County is one of those teams as the boys and girls are coming off of a Region 4, Class 3A championship for both teams in 2018 but had to replace a great loss of talent from those teams. This year it has each gotten off to slow starts but are beginning to find their footing.

The Chargers (7-16) started the year 3-14 before winning four of the last five games and going 3-2 in district play. It was good enough to get them the No. 3 seed in the tournament held at Aberdeen and they start off with Hatley at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

The first meeting for the two teams a couple of weeks ago ended with a 67-45 victory for Choctaw County, but head coach Gary Beals has tried to impart on his team that it’s much different when you’re playing for championships. Regardless, he likes the way his team has come together down the stretch.

“I think we’re playing pretty well right now," Beals said. "We’ve won four out of five and getting after it, but what we did against Hatley the first time around doesn’t matter. We’ve got to approach this game much differently than we did the other games the last couple of weeks.”  

Similarly, the Lady Chargers (6-16) have been playing their best basketball late in the season and have won four of their last seven games. They will have to continue to do that without their best player, however.
La’Genesis Johnson saw her season cut short with an ankle injury that was diagnosed last week and Choctaw County had to grind out a win against Eupora without her last week.

Lady Chargers coach Mandy Jewell mentioned in that game how happy she was to see other players rise to the occasion and is hoping that’s something that continues into district tournament play. They play Tuesday at 4 p.m. against Hatley as the No. 5 seed.

A team that both Choctaw County teams have defeated this season are getting set to compete for the Class 2A, Region 2 championship this week as well as East Webster heads to Bruce to play in that tournament.

The Lady Wolverines finished as the No. 3 seed this year as head coach Jon Ginn was in his first season coaching both teams. He saw a missed opportunity in a game against Northside that caused his team to finish a spot lower than it was capable and has it playing for its season on Tuesday night against Leflore County.

A win for the Lady Wolverines (15-8) has them in a rematch with Northside on Thursday night. They certainly would love that rematch as they’re locked in as winners of four out of their last five to end the regular season.

“We went over to Houston and got out to a slow start on their senior night but rallied and we grinded it out to come up with a win," Ginn said. "I thought that was big. I feel like defense has been our calling card all year. When our girls defend, we have a chance to win. We made some big plays the other night that put us in a good position.

“I feel very good about our girls right now. If we go in keying in on what we do well, I like where we are in the tournament.”

For the second-straight year, the boys squad went undefeated in Region 2 play and earned a bye in the opening round. East Webster (17-9) had to replace four starters from last season but found a way to get better as the season went on this year and came up with some big wins.

There were also some tough losses factored in like those against Choctaw County, Oak Hill Academy, Heritage Academy, Houston, Louisville and others. Almost all of those can be chalked up to many different things but free-throw shooting was paramount. The team simply hasn’t been what Ginn wants them to be in that regard.

“Our Achilles heel at different points of the season has been free throws," Ginn said. "We talk all the time about defending, taking care of the ball and rebounding and the last half of the season we’ve added free throws. We’ve worked extra hard these last couple of weeks on trying to turn the corner on free throws. I think we’ve held our own on the boards and defended well, I think if we can hit free throws, we put ourselves in a good position.”

The East Webster boys play the winner of Leflore County and Northside at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Bruce.

Eupora is also taking part in the Region 2 tournament as it plays as the No. 5 seed in the girls bracket and the No. 6 seed in the boys bracket. The Eagles both will play the host team Bruce with the girls tipping off at 4 p.m. and the boys playing at 5:30 p.m.

The boys team lost to Bruce on the road earlier this year 75-61 but came back and won 86-73 at home. It was the same outcome for the girls as they lost 45-37 on the road and 53-41 at home.