By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Ryan Ross Era at Munford High School started off slowly.
But as the calendar turned over from November to December, Ross’ Munford Cougars have transformed a 0-4 record into a winning mark at 5-4. The latest Munford victory came courtesy of the rival Millington Trojans Friday night in the Munford Gymnasium 54-50.
After losing their first four games, the Cougars have rallied off five straight beating notable teams like Covington and Dyersburg.
Ross said the transformation for his ball club was simple.
“It starts in practice,” he said. “They are an extremely competitive group of guys. Give them all the credit for going after it hard in practice. And now it is translating over into the games. Plus our seniors finally decided they were tired of losing.”
The Cougars jumped out 4-0 in the first quarter behind two layups from Queyon Mills. Munford was ahead 8-4 late in the first quarter when Millington Trojan Kolby Hollowell drained a triple.
The Cougars’ 8-7 lead after one quarter disappeared when Trojan Cameron Crawford hit a three-pointer.
Millington held the advantage in the early part of the second quarter behind buckets from Kelvin Jones and Hollowell.
Munford trailed 14-10 and closed out the first half on a 15-7 run to lead 25-21 at the break.
In the third quarter, Jones kept the Trojans close displaying his inside and outside skills. Jones scored at the foul line, with his jumper and by driving to the basket.
After Cougar Dominique Bell hit a three-pointer to make the score 30-24, Jones drove to the rim to make a layup to make the score 30-26.
Later in the period, Jones drained a jumper and made another athletic layup making the tally 31-30 in favor of Munford.
The Cougars closed out the third quarter outscoring Millington 8-5 to hold a 39-35 advantage entering the fourth period.
Munford’s recent late-game experience came in handy in the fourth quarter with the Cougars maintaining the lead.
Millington did manage to cut the Munford lead to 51-50 with less than two minutes remaining when Jones hit a three-pointer.
The Trojans tried to set up for the final shot after grabbing a rebound with about a minute and 20 seconds remaining. After a timeout call with 29.6 seconds left, the play set up by the Trojans became unsuccessful when the Cougars drew a charge.
Munford iced the game from the free throw line when Mills made 3 of 4 foul shots.
“They showed a toughness tonight, especially on the defensive end,” Ross said of his team. “They have bought into what we are telling them defensively. They are establishing their identity as a defensive team.
“And like I said earlier it starts in practice,” he concluded. “They are going full speed all the time.”