By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Entering the 2014-15 season, even Munford Cougars Head Coach Butch Hopkins was trying to figure out the identity of his team.
The veteran coach missed summer workouts with his heart surgery. But through the preseason and first half of the regular season, the Cougars are starting to fall into their roles. The back-to-back District 13-3A Tournament champions lost all the starters from those teams leaving the Munford Gymnasium court to young players like Queyon Mills.
Mills and his Cougar teammates have been keeping the honor of the court lately winning their first two games of Munford Christmas Classic. On Dec. 29, the Cougars earned victory No. 2 in the Classic beating MLK Prep 47-37.
“It feels great like we’re on a come-up,” Mills said. “It feels like a season changer. We’ve come a long ways. We’re just going with the flow.”
The flow lately has been some close games and victories for the Cougars. And the man running the show on the floor has been Mills.
The junior guard directs and operates Munford’s patient approach most of the game with help from fellow guards Dominique Bell, Nigel Jones and Deon Banks.
The guards locating inside players like Edward Estes helped Munford build a 5-3 advantage in the first quarter. Mills concluded the opening period with a three-pointer to make the score 8-6.
The Cougars also scored 8 points in the second quarter to lead the Rams 16-11.
MLK came out the locker room on fire with a 10-5 run to tie the game at 21-21. When Ram Montavious Tabb hit a three-pointer later in the period MLK grabbed the lead at 25-24.
But the Cougars regrouped to outscore MLK 6-1 to close out the third quarter. Mills concluded the third making three foul shots to make the score 30-26.
“It’s hard but we spend a lot of time in the gym just shooting free throws,” Mills noted. “We put that practice time to use.”
Throughout the fourth quarter Munford free throws would dig the Rams a deeper hole. Mills made 6 of 6 down the stretch to ice the victory.
Now the Cougars prepare for enter district play taking on foes like Brighton, Dyer County and Hardin County more frequently.
Mills said the last couple of months has build his mental and physical toughness for the stretch run of the season.
“I just have to keep our heads up and lead the team,” he concluded. “I hope we get out this tournament the pressure and more game experience for our bench. We’re all going to have to step up in districts.”