By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Leaving the locker room last Tuesday night, new Munford Head Basketball Coach Butch Hopkins was drenched from sweat and breathing heavily.
The veteran coach with more than 500 career wins also had a big smile on his face. His Cougars earned a 63-58 victory over the 2012 Class 3A State runner-up Central Warriors.
“I kind of missed this for about 8 years,” Hopkins said. “There’s nothing better than going to a place, and taking a team that wasn’t supposed to have a chance and beating one of the better teams in state. Kids played great. We made a lot of mistakes, but we just kept hanging and kept fighting.”
The last time Hopkins led a team to the court for a TSSAA basketball game was in 2005 with the Dyer County Choctaws. Hopkins has coached all over the Volunteer State and his latest stop is back home in Tipton County, where he coached in the 1970s.
The second Hopkins era at Munford began with his team taking a 16-13 lead over the team from Memphis. New Cougars Jonathan Stark and Kameron Foster hit outside shots to build a 16-10 lead early. There teammate Antonio Moore contributed four points in that stretch.
The second quarter was test to Munford’s resolve. The Warriors came out on a 10-0 run to take a 23-16 lead. Stark ended the Central run with a floater in the lane. That shot sparked a 9-3 Munford rally that gave the Cougars a 27-26 advantage.
Central regained the lead at 28-27 when Foster drove down the lane and dished off a no-look pass to Moore for a layup. The Cougars would keep the lead for good.
Munford was ahead 33-32 at the break. Stark came out of the locker room firing a three-pointer that gave the Cougars a 36-32 lead.
Central stayed close with the play of Joshua Jones making the score 39-37 in favor of Munford. That was when Stark displayed his passing skills.
The senior point guard located center Kylon Hall on two plays. After a Hall layup, Stark threw a laser pass from midcourt to a streaking Hall. The big man took the rock and leaped to the basket for a one-hand dunk making the score 45-37.
The Cougars closed out the third quarter strong with Foster hitting a triple that made the score 48-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
Early in the final quarter Foster stepped back and nailed another three-pointer that made the score 53-42. And it was Stark keeping the Warriors at bay with jumpers and drives to the basket to tally 25 points.
“We rode Jonathan Starks to death,” Hopkins said. “This is something to build off of. We’ve got some kids who are having some problems and they’re not on our bench. Four of them, some we really need. Hopefully that will get worked out and we’ll have a little more depth and that will add some size. That will really help this basketball team.”
Despite the lack of depth, Stark was one of three Cougars to reach double figures. Six Munford players saw action in the opener with Foster scoring 17 points and Hall tallying 10.
Glad to be back in the action, Hopkins said winning the opener made it sweeter.
“It’s always good to start 1-0,” he concluded. “It’s better than 0-1.”