By Thomas Sellers Jr.
A veteran coach like Butch Hopkins can’t help but compare teams after a while.
With nearly 40 years of coaching experience, Hopkins’ 2013-14 Munford Cougars has him taking a trip down memory lane to his Franklin High team that nearly won State.
That Franklin team started slow with a 5-7 record depending on standout Timmy Patterson for offense. But with the development of a post and wing player and the transformation of Robert Booker, Franklin finished 23-9 and in the State Tournament. Down the stretch, Hopkins had five players averaging double figures.
Fast forward to 2014, the stat book in Munford is shaping up the same way. And Friday night in the Munford Gymnasium, it was another balance performance from the Cougars that led to a 61-46 win over District 13-3A rivals Brighton.
“This team, we never know what’s going to happen,” Hopkins said. “We looked up the stats the other day. We have two guys averaging 11 points. Another guy averaging 10.2, 9.8 and 9.2.”
The Cougars balance attack features Reggie Holmes, Kylon Hall, Andrea Bell, Juane Tolton and David Hunter.
“What we have to do is find out as the flow goes,” Hopkins noted. “Then once we find something that starts to niche we begin to know where we want to go with the ball.”
This season has been a project transforming sophomore guard Reggie Holmes into a true point guard. With clear offensive talent and quickness, Hopkins is employing Holmes to slow down, work the offense and distribute the ball to post players like Hall and Bell.
It was that duo that led Munford to victories in games like Millington and JCM. Then other nights Holmes had to be the offensive force like the district win over Dyer County. And the duo of Tolton and Hunter have guided the Cougars to several victories this season.
Against Brighton it was a team effort that kept Munford ahead throughout the first half. The Cougars were ahead 30-25 at halftime when Hunter hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer.
Munford’s lead grew to 12 points in the third quarter with Tolton and Hunter starting the period with jumpers. The Cougars opened the third quarter with a 11-2 run. Cardinal Ty Cooper ended his team’s drought with a drive to the bucket for a layup.
Momentum quickly went back to Munford when Holmes located a racing Hall running down the middle of the floor. Hall elevated for a two-hand slam. The Cougars were ahead 43-31.
In the fourth quarter Munford outscored Brighton 18-15 to maintain its double digit lead.
Hopkins said the reason for his team’s 15 point win over the Cardinals and other victories this season can be contributed to two aspects.
“Offensive and defensive rebounding is much better,” he noted. “We got out-rebounds in every game last year. We’ve gotten much better.”
Hopkins said if rebounding stays solid, the bench continues to develop through JV games and his starters learn their roles, this year’s Munford team would rival that Franklin group.
“Can this team get to that level,” Hopkins asked, “you never know.”