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New Year’s Resolution: Shake up District 15-2A

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
St. George's No. 5 St. George's No. 33 thumbnailMEMPHIS — The name Jewell Gates is respected in this corner of the state around basketball circles.
Before coming to Millington two years ago, Gates earned a solid repetition as a player and coach from Tipton County to winning a State title at Southwind.
Throughout December, Gates and his Trojans have made trips to the Coach’s old stomping grounds of Brighton, Munford and on Dec. 30 Southwind.
The Trojans made the trip to the bottom of Shelby County to take on the St. George’s Gryphons. Millington had a chance to close out the 2017 calendar year on a positive not and getting back to .500 overall. But late heroics by St. George’s Conner Richardson spoiled the Trojans’ New Year’s celebration plans 56-54.
“Our same old boogie-barrels — turnovers, no energy and sometimes we think that we’re better than we are as individuals,” Gates noted. “Not as a team but individuals, we don’t do what we’ve been told to do once we get our there on the court. We turn the ball over. We don’t box out. And we’ll leave the guy open who can shoot the ball wide open.”
The Trojans jumped out 15-12 in the Southwind Gymnasium in the first quarter behind the inside play of Taveon Collier and key outside shots from Hunter Klutts and Rodney McGhee.
Then the second quarter came and St. George’s Hagan Imorde warmed up the chilly afternoon with his long range shooting. The Gryphons went on a 13-2 run to start the period with Imorde made three triples.
Imorde’s third trey made the tally 25-17 in a favor of St. George’s.
“We know he’s going to catch and shoot if he’s open,” Gates said. “It’s little things like that. Great teams take care of those little small things like stay in a shooter’s face.”
Imorde continued to elude Millington defenders in the second quarter making two more triples. St. George’s was ahead 35-24 at the break.
“Did we fight back in that third quarter?” Gates asked rhetorically. “Yes we did and we tied it going into that fourth quarter. The first six minutes of the fourth quarter, we’re up 6 with 1:57 to go.”
Millington’s spark plug in the third quarter was junior guard Jamerio Jones. After St. George’s went ahead 37-24, Jones made back-to-back triples.
“We made some shots,” Gates said. “Jamerio Jones gave us a great lift by making some jumpers. He defended Imorde a little bit. That made a difference. Jones deserves our game ball and I’ll give him one for this performance.”
Klutts made the score 37-33 when he joined the three-point shooting party with a triple of his own. Trojan forward Mac Coulter hit a jumper in the lane that trimmed the deficit to two.
Millington finally tied the game at 37-37 when Faizon Fields scored. Justin Bray gave St. George’s the advantage again with a drive to the rim.
In the final seconds of the third quarter, Trojan senior guard Bryce Mattox made a steal and drove to the other end for a layup deadlocking the game at 39-39 entering the fourth quarter.
The contest became a seesaw affair tied at 43-43. Millington tried to get some separation going on a 7-1 run capped off by another Coulter mid-range jumper. The Trojans were ahead 50-44.
“But until we all can play like that or up to that level, we can’t have guys come off the bench and immediately turn the ball over,” Gates noted. “That’s stuff we can’t have.”
Late turnovers caused by the Gryphons led to baskets by Bray, Harrison Mullaney and Will Johns. A pair of Bray foul shots tied the game at 54-54.
With less than 20 seconds remaining in the game, St. George’s drew up a play finding big man Richardson cutting to the basket. The 6’6 junior forward tried to dunk over two Millington defenders but had to settle for a power layup giving St. George’s a 56-54 advantage with 3.3 left on the clock.
After a timeout, the Trojans missed a long range attempt at the buzzer. St. George’s was victorious and Millington had to settle for a moral victory of playing a good team close.
“The big picture looks better than it did 12 months ago I must say,” Gates said. “But just by me saying it doesn’t mean diddly-squat. We as a team have to go out and prove that the big picture looks better.
“That’s the thing we have to work on,” Gates concluded. “The big picture does look better but at the end of the night the results have to show the big picture looks better.”

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