OXFORD — It may have been the third Class 2A basketball state championship in four years when the Coahoma County High School boys defeated Potts Camp 56-36 at Ole Miss Friday, but this one came with adversity.
The team opened the season with a 1-7 record thanks to a series of injuries and lost key athletes from 2018-19, but the Red Panthers (24-10, 9-1) bounced back with more depth than ever.
“Everybody was like what was wrong with Coahoma County?” said coach Derrick Moore. “Coahoma County was injured, so these guys got a lot of reps in the process and they grew up quick.”
It was also the fifth championship in six seasons for the current senior class going back to junior high school.
Moore ran the boys junior high program when the seniors were in sixth grade, but he was just coaching the high school girls at the time. Now, he is the high school boys and girls coach.
“I like to look at it as five times out of six,” Moore said. “I’ve had these guys ever since sixth grade. They won two as junior high and then they won three out of four as high school. They’re winners.”
Center Jai’sheldon Yates, who was the MVP of the 2017-18 championship game as a freshman, transferred schools before the season.
Moore received a screenshot of a post saying the Red Panthers would lose the championship game because they did not have Yates.
“These guys were like, ‘Man, we’ve seen this team.’ Everybody was talking about how big they are,” Moore said. “We were like we’ve played Greenville. They’ve got much size. Charleston is way bigger. Tupelo is way bigger. Then we were sitting here watching the video. They take too many plays off. We hustle every play, every play.”
Senior Keyshaun Holly moved from power forward to center.
Holly may not have Yates’ size, but Moore said he has a big heart.
“He didn’t have to do everything down there,” Moore said. “I’ve got guards that rebound the ball.”
Moore said everyone went for the rebound on every shot.
“Holly, he did exactly what he needed to do, defend, make layups,” Moore said.
The goal was always to make opponents score fewer than 10 points every quarter.
Sophomore shooting guard and forward Christopher Abby was one of the athletes who saw action at the beginning of the season when upperclassmen were injured and it paid off. He scored 12 points in the championship game all on 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Moore has said opponents key on senior guard Bentavious Galmore, who scored 17 points against Potts Camp to win the MVP of the championship game, so that frees up teammates early. It was Abby on Friday, but usually senior wing Tarkevius Logan gets things going in the first quarter.
“We’ve got a closer,” Moore said. “Ben’s our closer. We have Logan to pretty much carry us throughout the other three quarters. What we need him (Logan) to do is keep it close and then we’re going to turn it over to him (Galmore). These guys here got the repetition at the beginning of the season because everybody was injured.”
Abby said he had to perform well for the team.
“Before this game, we talked about a lot,” Abby said. “Like coach always said, I am not a lane shooter.”
Galmore, who has already signed with Delta State University and won the C Spire Class 2A Scholar Athlete award before the game, talked about the importance of teamwork.
“Multiple efforts,” Galmore said. “It’s got to come from somewhere.”
Galmore understood his role on the team.
“I just go out there and be a leader,” he said. “I just go out there and do what I’ve got to do. I just go out there and lead.”
Logan scored 10 points in the championship game and said motivation was the key to his success.
“My teammates come out and talk to me every game,” Logan said. “When I’m down, they tell me to forget it and zone in and play.”
The MVP of the 2016-17 championship game was guard Keion Cosby and then Yates earned the award one year later. Both wore the number 11.
Galmore wore the number 1. That means 1 was the only number on the jersey of all three championship game MVPs.
“I don’t know what to say about it,” Galmore said. “It’s just coincidence. It’s just opportunities like that with the number 11 and 1.”
The coincidence continued with Moore as it was his 11th championship with junior high, high school and a semipro championship during the summer.
“I told them I had a surprise,” Moore said. “It’s still number 11.”
Moore won the championships with many friends. His brother, Daryl, cousin Johnetta Robinson and friend Latarius O'Neal are all assistant coaches. That is important to Moore as he has to manage two teams.
“I’ve got the best coaches people don’t know about, my brother, my cousin and one of my better friends,” Moore said.
Moore said his athletes always know what to do.
“We don’t have to be there,” he said. “Practice is going to run.”
Several of the players on the team are his cousins including Abby, senior forward and center Tykeevius Taylor, senior guard Keyshawn Thomas, junior Martin Williams and senior guard Markevious Holmes.
Abby was glad to be able to come through for his cousin in the game that mattered most.
“It feels great,” Abby said. “I just like showing what I can do out there.”
Galmore enjoyed his career as a Red Panther.
“I’m blessed,” he said. “I thank God he blessed me with a team like this. We come out and do it and I’m blessed.”
As for the team’s future, Moore said the athletes would take a week off after winning the championship and continue running and conditioning on the track team.
While several seniors are graduating, Moore said sophomore guard Jaydon McCool and eighth-grade point guard Harlem Bell give Coahoma County a bright future.
“Remember the names, McCool and Bell,” Moore said.