By Austin Bishop
Special to The Star
Prince may have wanted to "Party like it's 1999," but first-year Meridian Community College head men's basketball coach Cedric Drake wants his Eagles to play like it.
"The last time we won region and went to the National Tournament was in 1999," said Drake, who was a player on that historic team. "That is our goal. We want to get back into that competition of putting ourselves in position to make the tournament."
That will take a lot of work for Drake, who is taking over a team that only has a handful of players returning from last year's 10-19 team.
Drake said this year's MCC squad will be dependant on strong guard play, mostly because of a lack of depth in the post. "We have some good players, but that's not where our numbers are."
One of those Drake is looking at to have a strong year on the inside is 6-foot-6 freshman Michael Hutchins from Livingston, Ala.
"He has a lot of potential to be good," Drake said of Hutchins. "We are working on getting his post game down, teaching him to play with his back to the basket."
Of the three sophomores who saw playing time for the Eagles last year, the one Drake is counting on most is former Meridian High School standout Nick Waters.
"He is a good leader and very quick," Drake said. "He handles the ball well and can shoot it too. The way we are going to play is going to be very key and he's the one running the team. I put a lot on my point guard, because I'm a firm believer in him being a coach on the floor."
Drake acknowledges that youth and inexperience will be a problem — at least for a while.
"We are going to be very young with a team full of freshmen," he said. "I think if we come out and play with heart and play smart and execute we will be fine. The main think for us is to be competitive."
Drake said his youngsters will have to grow up quickly.
"By Christmas we should be fine," he said. "The way I teach is that after Christmas you are not a freshman anymore. You have a full semester of college basketball and you shouldn't be making mistakes."
Drake who last coached the Montgomery (Ala.) Job Corps team, was hired in July and hasn't had a chance to add many of his players to the team.
"We have 17 guys here and the team was already put together," Drake said. "I had one guy that came in at the last minute and a couple walk-ons, but other than that they were already here."
Drake is hoping he can shape the unit into a competitive one.
"We want to get back to where MCC basketball needs to be," he said. "But right now, we just want to play hard and compete as hard as we can."
By Austin Bishop
For the Newton County Cougars, their final game of the season couldn’t be bigger: state title or bust.
They forced a Game 3 in the Class 4A championship series with a 2-1 win over Lewisburg in 10 innings on Thursday night at Trustmark Park.
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After being shutout less than 24 hours earlier, the Newton County Cougars used a 10-inning affair to force a Game 3 in the Class 4A championship series, topping Lewisburg, 2-1, in Game 2 at Trustmark Park.
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Slive focused on future after big changes
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He's relaxed and feeling awfully good about the state of the Southeastern Conference.
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’Bama bounces Ole Miss from SEC Tourney
For the second day in a row, the Rebels went into extra-innings but were unable to emerge with the victory as No. 21 Ole Miss (37-22) fell to Alabama (34-25) 7-5 in 10 innings at the SEC Tournament on Thursday.
With the loss, the Rebels were eliminated from the SEC Tournament and will now await NCAA Tournament selection announcements at 11 a.m. on Monday. The selection of the NCAA Tournament field will be televised by ESPNU.
Tanner Bailey (4-2) suffered the loss for the Rebels, allowing two runs on one hit with two walks in 2.1 innings of work.
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