By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When February rolls around, simple things separate the pretenders from the contenders in high school basketball.
Friday night in the William Osteen Gymnasium the Millington Trojans got a lesson in championship-level basketball courtesy of the Haywood Tomcats. One of the perennial powers in Class 2A hoops across the State, the Tomcats slowly wore down the Trojans to prevail 62-48.
“They know how to play,” Millington Head Coach Jewell Gates said. “They’ve been in situations to were they fought for State Tournaments, Sub-State games and Regional championships. That and also the greatest word that separates them from us is discipline.
“We’re not disciplined enough to box out every time,” he added. “We’re not disciplined enough to finish off shots because we’re converting back to shooting like this and that. We’re trying to look pretty with very little substance.”
Haywood’s systematic approach led to a 17-9 first quarter lead. The Trojans matched the Tomcats’ pace in the second quarter with Haywood beating Millington 7-6 in the period.
Then Tomcat Tristan Jarrett took over in the second half helping Haywood outscore the Trojans 38-35. Jarrett scored half of Haywood’s points with a 31-point effort.
“Teams like Haywood and Ripley, if you don’t beat them, they’re not going to beat themselves,” Gates noted. “That’s a good basketball team over there. They’re going to be a tough out for anybody.”
The Trojans were led by Hunter Klutts’ 16 points. Rodney McGhee and Jeremiah Temple had 7 points each.
Gates said his players are running out of excuses as the district tournament approaches.
“I’m not going by our youth anymore,” he said. “You can’t say that now. If they’re sophomores in August, it’s February not. You’re a junior now — at least you’re supposed to be basketballwise. We’ve played the whole season.”
The thing that separated the Tomcats from the Trojans on the night was discipline. Gates said his players need to exercise it soon.
“We’re not disciplined enough to listen,” he said. “We’re not disciplined enough to go get a defensive rebound because it’s too tough. We have to box out for 3 seconds and then go jump and get it. The teams that do that are the teams that win.
“The teams that don’t do that are the teams that don’t win,” Gates concluded, “especially in February and March.”