By Austin Bishop
Special to The Star
It's not easy to reach the NJCAA Men's National Basketball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., once, much less three times in a row.
But that's just what the Lions of East Mississippi Community College have done under head coach Mark White.
The Lions begin their journey toward a fourth straight Region 23 championship and another spot in the national tourney when they play host to Georgia Highlands to tip off the 2012-13 season today at 7:30 p.m.
"This team is different because the three returning guys we have don't have a lot of experience," White said. "We lost eight sophomores off of our team."
Among those the Lions are looking forward to have an immediate impact is Jarekious Bradley, a 6-foot-5 220-pound transfer from Midland (Texas) Community College.
"He is a heck of a player," White said. "He can really score and he has got a big body."
White said he expects his Lions to be balanced this year, but in order for players to get on the court for his team, they are going to have to play on the defensive end.
“We have got a lot of depth on this team and we have a lot of good freshmen," White said. "We are always about defense first. We emphasize that playing time is based on the way you play defense. Nothing is going to replace hard work."
Among the freshmen EMCC is counting on is point guard Nick Giles from Kemper County.
"He is a true point guard," White said. "He is one of those guys who is pass first, which goes really, really well with what we have because we have so many guys who can score."
Two other transfers the Lions will be counting on are 6-foot-8 sophomore Trey Brown, who saw limited playing time at Tennessee-Chattanooga last year and 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman Keynan Pittman, who was at James Madison University last season.
"I tell everybody our philosophy is that if you can get four or five good players each year you are always going to have a balance," White said. "Your sophomores are going to be the guys you are counting on. Last year we lost more (sophomores) than we have in the past."
White said this year's team is going to have good size and depth, with the Lions possibly going 10-or-12 deep in certain situations.
Success has not spoiled White in the least.
"You can't rest on your laurels," he said. "Now, with the state being open (to out-of-district recruiting), we will be going from the top of the state to the bottom of find players."
White said making the national tournament three consecutive years has been a good experience, but wants the Lions to go a little further.
"We are going to have to take a step forward if we actually want to compete on a national level," he said. "We have been there three times now and know what it takes."
The Lions were 23-6 last season to push White's five-year record at EMCC to 103-43. His team won 27 games in 2009-10 and 25 in 2010-11.
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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He has the Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals for the first time and has won more games with this team than any other coach.
Slive focused on future after big changes
Mike Slive sprawls in a comfy arm chair, propping his feet on a coffee table between one massive tome on Winston Churchill and an even thicker "Encyclopedia of Southern Culture."
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.
Roy shows big-league talent in win
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