By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Two twin post players, a wide receiver, gimpy star and freshman guard led by a coach who walked the sidelines during the Ronald Reagan administration were good enough to upset the Dyer County Choctaws.
The defending District 13-3A champions entered the Munford Gymnasium Feb. 19 for the 2013 District Boys Tournament as the favorites to beat the Munford Cougars. But all the pieces of Butch Hopkins’ team were good enough to outlast the Choctaws 65-63 in overtime to claim the title.
“Dyer County ain’t 28-2 for no reason,” Hopkins said. “They’re good. It took a good basketball game to beat them. I felt like going into the game if they pressed us, we had a real good shot of beating them because Reggie plays really, really good when you press. He can get to the basket and he can dish it.”
Reggie Holmes was the freshman guard Hopkins plugged into the lineup because of the suspension of senior guard Kameron Foster because of technical fouls.
Holmes was in charge of an offense featuring power forwards Sedric Pryor and Andre Bell. The duo joined football standout Antonio Moore on the front line to give the Cougars more size for rebounding.
“The other thing we had to do was play extremely good half-court defense and not get killed on the boards,” Hopkins noted. “We held our own on the boards for the first time against them.”
It was rebounding that kept the Cougars in the game in the third quarter. When Moore hit a layup with 2 mintues and 47 seconds remaining in the period, Munford led 36-35.
Then Bell displayed his post game by facing up for a mid-range jumper giving the Cougars a 38-35 advantage.
Holmes kept the Cougars ahead by out running the field for a layup making the score 40-37. Then regular-season district MVP Robert Hubbs tied the game for Dyer County by draining a triple.
Pryor gave the Cougars a brief lead toward the end of the third quarter with a layup off the glass. The Choctaws tied the game at 42-42 heading into the fourth quarter.
The game was a seesaw affair the first few minutes of the fourth quarter until Pryor hit another layup to make the score 48-46. Then fighting cramps, Munford standout guard Jonathan Stark made a steal and raced toward his goal for a basket and a 50-46 advantage.
“I’ve been coaching for 31 years,” Hopkins noted. “I’ve had five first-team All-State point guards. He’s the best I’ve ever had. He was in another zone out here on this floor tonight. He was the best player on the floor. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”
But with Stark nursing his injury, Dyer County took advantage scoring five unanswered points to take a 51-50 lead.
Holmes tied the game at 51 all with a foul shot. Moore regained the lead for his team with a put-back basket. The Choctaws tied the contest at 53-53 with 31.9 seconds remaining. Both teams had a shot to win before regulation ended but were unsuccessful.
In the extra period, Holmes got the Cougars out and running with two quick baskets making the score 57-53. When Moore hit a layup it seemed Munford was in control leading 59-53.
But Hubbs rallied his team with four points in a 6-1 run to make the score 60-59 in favor of the Cougars. Starks slowed down the Choctaws’ momentum with a bucket to make the score 62-59.
Hubbs answered again this time with a dunk to once again cut the deficit to one point. Then it seemed the Cougars’ momentum was taken away with Holmes fouling out of the game with 39.8 seconds remaining.
Munford would relay on seniors Stark and Moore to finish off the upset and bring the title to Cougar Town. Stark hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left that made the score 64-61. Then ahead by a point with 5 seconds remaining, Moore hit a foul shot that made the score 65-63.
When the Choctaws’ final attempt bounced off the rim and back onto the floor, the Munford faithful errupted in celebration.
“We all came out and played together as a team,” Stark said. “We played hard and we had to play as a team because we’re missing one of our biggest contributors in Kameron Foster. But we all pulled it out, we all stepped up and played together.”
Stark said he was proud of the All-Tournament performance of his young backcourt mate.
“Reggie is going to be Reggie,” he noted. “He’s a real good player. He helped us out a lot and came up real big for us.”
Holmes was joined by Bell and Stark on the All-Tournament team. Stark was named MVP of the tournament. Stark along with teammates Bell and Foster were named to the All-District regular-season team. Stark said it’s not about the individual awards. The 2012-13 Cougars are trying to accomplish something special to be remembered for years to come.
“We have to bring this confidence to go far in the Region,” he concluded. “We’re staying focused and we still have something else to accomplish. We’re going to work hard in practice to get want we want.”