GLEN — Anyone that knows anything of the history of Alcorn Central High School knows that basketball is on the tip of the AC sports totem poll.
It’s a tradition that has been built through the generations over the last 50 years .. or maybe 51. Nobody knows for sure.
So it is never an overstatement to say that Golden Bear fans live for this time of year.
With the season in its early stages, let’s take a look at what has happened so far and what lies ahead this year for the Alcorn Central basketball programs.
Lady Bears look for leadership, stability
The graduation of one of the best players to come through the ranks at Central in recent memory (Ella Mask) and the loss of what was expected to be one of their leaders in scoring and rebounding (Jessica Hughes) to a transfer hasn’t been the most ideal situation for veteran head coach Alan Wood, now in his fifth season at the helm after taking over for the retired Charlette Foster.
“We lost Ella and Alaynna (Childers) to graduation and those were two pretty good players that scored a lot of points and did a lot of things for us,” said Wood. “I believe our main strength will be our overall depth. We go eight to 10 players deep. But at the same time we’re very young. Some of that youthfulness has shown already over our first few games. When we figure out our rotation I feel like we’ll be okay.”
The AC head man said that so far all the players have handled the ball pretty well and have handled the pressure pretty good.
“We have three or four kids that are capable of leading us if they step up and do the things it takes to be successful.”
Wood, now in his 39th year overall of coaching local high school basketball, indicated his primary rotation currently is comprised of Emi Farris, Sadie Perriman, Olivia Walker, Emma Waddell, Allie Grace Kirkland and Darbie Oaks. Others such as Ellie Pellizer, Branna Quinn and Allie Moore will also be counted on to provide depth as the season wears on.
Golden Bears playing better during life without Alex
Following an 0-5 start, the Central boys have rebounded nicely, winning five of their last six.
And they’re doing it all without leading scorer and rebounder Alex Moore. The 6-4 senior broke his femur bone during the football season and has been through lots of strenuous rehab that he hopes will help him get back eventually to help his teammates try and contend for the Region 1-4A title.
As for the present the leading scorer duties fall into the capable hands of 6-4 senior Keegan Hicks, the reigning Daily Corinthian Player of the Week.
“Our plan right now is to have Alex return after the Alcorn County Tournament ahead of our division game at Booneville on January 11,” said head coach Josh Harrison, now in his second year leading the program. “We’re being cautiously optimistic with his return because he has a college future to think about.”
A year ago, the Golden Bears shot out of the gates like a canon, hot and on on fire, winning lots of games early. After Christmas things began to go south for Harrison’s squad, at least in his opinion.
“We peaked too early last year.” he said. “The guys were playing with lots of excitement and momentum but at some point things changed. I believe the reality check came in a loss to New Site and then Booneville got us back after we beat them the first time.”
Central graduated players like Justin Hernandez and Jacob Tucker off last years team, players that were seasoned if not effective. So with Moore being injured Hicks and Brady Talley were the only two returnees with any starting experience. And it showed early on this season.
However, the head coach said that players like Charlie Staley, Andrew Williams and Owen Depoyster have stepped up their games and the team seems to be coming together. When Moore returns he is expected to simply add to that cohesiveness.
“I believe our success will hinge on our guard play,” said Harrison. “The ones we have playing most of the minutes now, most of them haven’t played varsity minutes before. Landon Powers is looking more confident and if Andrew and the others can play well together to take some pressure off of Keegan we’ll be okay I believe.”
The current starting five for the Golden Bears includes Powers, Torry Thrasher, Talley, Warner Michael and Hicks. Staley, Williams, Depoyster and freshman JT Potts are all coming off the bench with each contributing in their own way.
“I’m looking forward to seeing just how much better we can get as the season continues, especially when Alex gets back on the court,” said the AC head coach.