Coahoma County High School’s boys basketball team has won four Class 2A Mississippi High School Activities Association state championships in five seasons and now they want a three-peat.
Last season, they won their second consecutive championship, but they did it without a summer program and only played 10 games due to the pandemic. This season, as they look to win their third consecutive title for the first time in school history, they have all summer to prepare.
“It’s championship or bust,” said CCHS coach Derrick Moore. “Whether we make it or not, it’s championship or bust. That’s our mindset.”
The Red Panthers got things going with a scrimmage and worked from there.
“We haven’t had all the guys in here yet, but these guys are consistently coming,” Moore said. “Our first practice was actually our first game. We had never practiced over the summer, but we played a scrimmage game at Shelby (North Side High School) against Clarksdale and we lost, 22-21.”
After that, Moore brought in several of his old players to work with the team. Players included Bentavious Galmore, who currently is on the Coahoma Community College men’s basketball team, Markevius Phillips, Derrick Moore Jr., Cornelius Mitchell, Effernee Taylor and Keion Cosby.
“We’ve been getting better and better,” Moore said. “In fact, the second time we went to Shelby for a scrimmage, we had two blowouts.”
Moore said having a full summer will help the Red Panthers.
“We needed it because what I had last year was a team of guys from everywhere, but I had a team of guys from everywhere that actually knew how to play the game,” Moore said. “It just took them awhile to get used to the way we like to play, but they knew how to play. These guys right here, they’re young. They don’t have a lot of situations.”
Moore said the summer will help him teach his athletes how to handle any situation.
Moore said the Red Panthers will be versatile with strength at both the post and guard positions.
“If you’re not playing defense first, if you’re not diving for loose balls, you’re not playing,” Moore said.
Athletes Moore will be counting on are junior point guard Cameron Bell, sophomore guard Harlem Bell, junior wing Demarjay Rucker, junior wing Keshawn Maddox, senior wing and guard Christopher Abby and sophomore Gerasmus Eagins.
“Those are the guys that have been in the gym consistently on a daily basis,” Moore said.
Other athletes who have not been to practice consistently, but are expected to play key roles are senior center Tylin Martin and senior guard Cameron Eagins.
Senior guard Jaydon McCool had to sit out last year, but he will be back for 2021-22.
The Lady Red Panthers did not win any games last season, but so far, having the opportunity to practice during the summer has not made a difference.
“Believe it or not, we’re almost in the same situation,” Moore said. “I can’t get the girls in here. That’s tough being as young as they are, they’re not ready to play yet. I got them in here today (July 7) and I had 11. Most times they practiced, they had three or four kids. Today, the girls had 11 kids. And you know the first thing they wanted to do was scrimmage? But they’re not ready. We need to work on basketball stuff. No, they want to scrimmage, so they’ve got the wrong mindset.”
Moore said the coaches need to teach the girls the game of basketball in baby steps.
Not having a full offseason in 2020 could be part of the problem with the girls not coming to practice as they are not accustomed to the summer program.
“It could be, but that’s an excuse because they know if we call practice, then we should be here at practice. I guess parents have got to make them get out of the house and come on in. Then that falls back to the parents probably not even knowing. They’re probably not telling parents that we’ve got practice and they’re sitting around the house versus these guys. They’ll ask for practice.”
Moore said when the girls practice, it would be at 2 p.m. for an hour and a half. Then the boys practice follows.
“They’re going to have to buy into it,” Moore said. “That’s the biggest thing. The girls haven’t bought into it yet. Once they buy into it, we can make noise, but they haven’t fully invested buying into wanting to win. They just want to go out and have a jersey, but they haven’t invested into winning yet.”
Moore does feel the future could be bright.
“We’ve got potential,” he said. “We’ve got some kids that can play, young talent that still can play.”
Freshman small and power forward Hannah Clark, freshman point and shooting guard Layla Cam and junior guard and small forward Armoni Redmon were some of the Lady Red Panthers who have been to practice regularly.
Senior center Mariah Crawford and her sister sophomore Matia Crawford were two of the girls who came to practice last week.
Moore said many Lady Red Panthers attended practice last week after he sent out a group text that it was the last practice of the summer. He did say the girls could finish in second or third place in the district when it is all said and done.
“To be honest, if we come out next year, not this year coming, but the 2022-23 season, we can be all that we need to be,” Moore said. “It’s just the mindset they’re going to have to develop.”
The Lady Red Panthers were the state runner-ups in 2017 and 2020.
“The boys just know how to win the big game, but the girls, they always have the better record,” Moore said.
Coahoma Early College High School’s situation is up in the air. The school may close before next season. Most of those athletes would likely transfer to Coahoma County High School next year.
As of now, Moore said no athletes on CECHS last season joined the Red Panthers or Lady Red Panthers.
“I have not had any contact with any of those kids,” Moore said. “I only worry about them when they’re enrolled here. That’s what I put my hands on. Until then, I don’t even worry about it.”