February 19, 2013 4:00:42 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
During the final quarter of a one-side loss to Starkville High School last month, Noxubee County boys basketball coach T.J. Billups did not leave his seat.
Billups watched helplessly as the Tigers made turnover after turnover.
These days, the former Mississippi State basketball standout is much happier with this team, thanks in part to the strong play of captain Jamarri Johnson.
Johnson is averaging 24 points per game. Last week, the 5-foot-11 senior scored 51 points and pulled down 14 rebounds as Noxubee County captured the Class 4A, Region 4 tournament championship.
For this success, Johnson has been named this week's The Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
"Jamarri is a complete player," Billups said. "He was worked hard to improve each area of his game. Obviously, he has been a big reason for our success this season."
The Tigers stand 14-13 overall. Noxubee County has shown flashes of greatness. It has also shown an inability to take care of the basketball and make shots.
Johnson hopes last week's run through the region tournament will be the proper motivation needed for the Class 4A playoffs, which begin tonight at home against Pontotoc.
"We have to be at our best every night," Johnson said. "Sometimes, we take things for granted. We can't do that in the playoffs.
"We played two really great games last week. Hopefully, that will carry over."
Noxubee County has been unable to string wins together. The Tigers could match a season-best three-game win streak with a victory tonight.
'The kids have really worked hard and listened," Billups said. "We have had some struggles but that doesn't matter now. When we have everybody buying in and doing the right thing, we have potential.
"That starts with Jamarri. He always set the tone for us."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter