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By JOEL COLEMAN
If you haven't got your high school basketball fix yet this season, today gives you a prime opportunity to do so.
Just down Highway 82, the boys and girls squads of East Oktibbeha and West Oktibbeha, along with Noxubee County's boys and girls teams, will begin play in the West Lowndes Tournament hosted by the Panthers and Lady Panthers.
The two-day event tips off at 4 p.m. with the Lady Titans squaring off against Noxubee.
When the action starts, East Oktibbeha girls coach Randy Brooks already knows what he wants to see happen.
"We've got to play better defense and execute the offense better," said Brooks, whose Lady Titans are 1-3 this season. "We've got to be more aggressive. Right now we're too passive on defense. We're letting one player score 20 points on us. We're just getting beat by single players at the moment."
Much like Brooks, the other coaches participating in this weekend's action hope to witness their squads improve over the course of today and Saturday.
East Oktibbeha boys coach Barnett Robinson has witnessed his team drop four-straight games to open the 2010-11 season, but has seen signs that the Titans are close to breaking out.
Robinson hopes that happens when his club faces Noxubee at 5:30 p.m.
"We've jumped right out this year on some bigger schools, but each game, we've progressed," said Robinson.
While the competition has been tough, Robinson says poor defense is the primary reason the Titans sit at 0-4 coming into today.
"Everybody on the team wants to score, but defense is something that you've got to want to do," said Robinson. "It makes a difference when they are just running around the gym playing ball. Then, when they get in a game situation, the pace picks up. It's different. We've got to tighten up."
One group that hasn't had to deal with much adversity so far this year is Danny Crawford's West Oktibbeha boys.
Following a season-opening loss to West Point, the Timberwolves have ripped off seven straight wins.
Crawford wants to make it eight in a row tonight at 7 p.m. when West Oktibbeha plays host West Lowndes, but perhaps more importantly, he's waiting to see his team truly come together.
"I'd like to see us get comfortable," said Crawford. "We haven't jelled yet. We haven't shot the ball good at all this year. That was our strength last year, running and shooting and hitting a lot of shots. We're also playing sub-par defense right now. Once we jell, we should be alright."
Though they sit at just 3-5, Shelia Bailey's Lady Timberwolves seem as though they are finally finding the rhythm that Crawford is seeking from the West Oktibbeha boys.
The Lady Timberwolves have won two in a row and Bailey says she hopes her team can "keep rolling" when the Lady Timberwolves face the Lady Panthers at 7 p.m.
"I'd like to see us keep playing as a team," said Bailey. "If we get the win (tonight), I really think our confidence will be boosted up for Saturday. We need that confidence going in against (either Noxubee County or East Oktibbeha)."
The winners of today's games will advance to tournament championship games Saturday.
The losers will meet in consolation games prior to the title-deciding matchups.
Like today, Saturday's action will begin at 4 p.m. as well.