Jones basketball is back and in full swing. For starters, the men’s team has had an uncharacteristic beginning to the season, going 5-4. All of the men’s losses have been by a margin of five points or less, determined in the closing minutes of the game. In all their losses, they either held an early double-digit lead or a small lead down the stretch.
“Lack of execution, both offensively and defensively, was our downfall in those games. We have eleven freshmen and two returning sophomores, so there is not a lot of experience on the team, but our guys are smart and adapt very easily,” said Assistant Coach Kelvin Nixon.
After their loss against Meridian, the men’s games against Co-Lin and Hinds were postponed due to COVID-19 conflicts, essentially giving them a free week. Nixon said he thinks that the break proved to be helpful for the team.
“(The short break) gave us some extra time to reevaluate and tweak a few things within our system to fix issues that we saw in film from prior games. It also gave our players some time to recuperate and recover physically and mentally,” Nixon said.
The results of their first game, against Gulf Coast, showed it paid off. The Bobcats had their best game both defensive and offensively. Defensively, the Bobcats were outstanding, especially when closing out possessions. The Bobcats had 34 defensive rebounds compared to the Bulldogs’ 11 offensive rebounds. To go along with their substantial rebounding, the Bobcats also forced seven turnovers, which led to them getting some easy baskets offensively.
After they established their cushion, they relied on their half-court offense to run time off the clock and steadily build onto the lead. The men beat Gulf Coast 81-50, getting their first road win of the season. Sophomore forward John Rawls elaborated on how it felt after the big win.
“It felt good to get a win like that after playing in nothing but close games. Everybody in the locker room was happy and excited because we saw what we are capable of. We, as a team, came together and decided that we have to play better if we want to accomplish our goals and make a title run. We are confident that we can turn the season around and believe coach [Randy] Bolden and Nixon can guide us where we want to go,” Rawls said.
The Bobcats’ leading scorers were Ashton Campbell and Jabari Bowman with 18 points. The rebound leaders were Korey Jones, with 9 boards, and Bowman and Reggie Gause Jr., both with 8 boards. The men’s next home game will be against Hinds March 18 at 2 p.m.
As for the Lady Bobcats, their season couldn’t get any better. They are 11-0 overall, 9-0 in conference play, and have defeated two top-10 ranked teams in number eight Shelton State and number two South Georgia Tech. The only case that anyone can make to keep the Lady Bobcats from being number one is that they haven’t played Northwest Florida State College, which is currently ranked number one in the nation. The women are making a valid case that they are number one, and Head Coach Missy Bilderback contributes her team’s success to her players’ hard work and competitive nature.
“I think our success so far has a lot to do with the work our players have put in since the fall,” said Bilderback. “The recent wins I feel have to do with the way our players love to compete. They knew those games would be a big challenge and they welcomed that.”
What is most impressive about the women’s success so far is that they are winning with low shooting averages and a moderate turnover rate. Their team free throw percentage is 58.8 percent, and their field goal percentage is 35.2 percent.
“I think it’s a good sign that we have been able to win without shooting the percentages we are capable of. I do think we have seen improvement in those areas and hope to be hitting on all cylinders come playoff time,” said Bilderback.
Another statistical category that will catch one’s eye is their turnover average. They average 16.6 turnovers per game. In addition to causing more turnovers than they give up, the women only allow an average of 8.1 points off of turnovers, compared to scoring an average of 15.9 points off of opposing teams’ turnovers.
The Lady Bobcats’ most recent win might have been their most impressive, which was against the number-two ranked South Georgia Tech Lady Jets. This season, the Lady Jets are averaging 80.5 points per game on 44.6 percent from the field and 33.6 percent shooting from the three.
The Lady Bobcats’ defense held the Jets’ highly potent offense in check, only allowing 57 points on 32.8 percent shooting from the field and 29.4 percent shooting from the three. The Lady Bobcats leading scorer was Dasia Bradford with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals, and 4 assists. She was followed by Jayla Alexander with 18 points and Jakayla Johnson with 15 points. Their leading rebounder was Kyjai Miles with 11 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Endia Holiday spoke about the team’s approach to every game.
“Our mindset going into each game is to win and elevate our game! We want to grow and get better each time we play, and not to become complacent,” said Holiday.
The Lady Bobcats’ next home game is scheduled for March 20 against MGCCC at 2 p.m.
by Johnathan Richardson