February 10, 2009
Robert Byrd hopes a week off is the recipe for success this week for the New Hope High School boys basketball team.
A little home cooking won''t hurt the Trojans, either.
Byrd and the defending Class 4A state champions will kick off action at 7:30 tonight against seventh-seeded Neshoba Central on day two of the Class 4A-District 4 tournament at New Hope High.
The second-seeded Trojans (20-4) closed the regular season last week with a victory against Caledonia. New Hope used its trademark defense to force turnovers and a patient attack in its half-court sets to get to 20 victories.
But Byrd wasn''t entirely pleased with the Trojans'' effort. New Hope has had a week to regroup and to rediscover what Byrd believes it will need to challenge top-seeded Noxubee County and the rest of the teams for a district title.
"We have been playing pretty bad coming in," Byrd said. "We have been winning but we haven''t been playing very well, so we had a good week of practice."
Even though New Hope will have the home-court advantage, Byrd believes Shaunessy Smith and the Tigers have to be considered the team to beat.
Noxubee County beat New Hope by three points in the Trojans'' first district game of the season in what Byrd called an "ugly" game. He said both teams had their football players return to their lineups shortly before the game, so neither team was in sync.
Byrd said a week of practice could affect his players'' timing, but he hopes the Trojans will come out focused and ready to make a run at a district tournament.
"We worked on some things defensively and got better defensively," Byrd said. "Offensively, we just have to be able to make some shots. We spent most of the week working on some things defensively. We just didn''t have any urgency the past couple of games."
Byrd hopes team leaders Quentin Shirley and Jonathan Brandon can be difference-makers and build on the tradition of last season''s state championship squad.
"They know how to compete, and we expect them to compete hard," Byrd said of New Hope''s five senior starters. "They have been around. They know what is going on. I expect a lot out of them."
The fourth-seeded New Hope girls basketball team also will have to contend with top-seeded Noxubee County and do-it-all sophomore guard Jeraldine Campbell.
To get to that game, though, the Trojans will have to take care of fifth-seeded Neshoba Central at 6 p.m. today.
Coach Tim Vaughan''s squad will be without shooting guard Tarran King, who suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the year.
Without King, Vaughan said point guard Kelli Petty and center Rachel Hollivay will have to carry a big part of the load.
Vaughan said he learned a lot this season, which began with promise after a 20-6 finish in 2007-08. He hopes the Lady Trojans can find a third player to deliver scoring punch.
If that happens, Vaughan likes his team''s chances to go far.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.