TREMONT – After postponing basketball to focus on their 4A football playoff run, first-year coach Devin Hill and his Itawamba AHS Indians finally began their season last week.
The team found themselves behind the competition in terms of preparation and games played, but after losing their first two contests they took a major step towards narrowing the gap Thursday night when they notched their first win of the season with a 66-42 victory over county rival Tremont.
Powered by a 15-point performance by Makel Hamer, the Indians never trailed as they used their superior athleticism to produce just enough offense against Tremont’s zone defense to quickly build a lead and buck the trend of last season’s uncomfortably close games against the Eagles.
“We haven’t really done a whole lot of zone stuff, we have been playing teams that are going to man us,” Hill said after the game. “The zone kind of threw us off a little bit. We weren’t hitting shots so we had to give a couple of pump fakes and go to the goal. I thought overall we did a pretty good job of that.”
IAHS (1-2) began the game on an 8-0 run as Tyler Dossett, Cameron Shumpert and Deante Whitfield got inside, while Anthony Kennedy knocked down a couple of free throws.
Tremont’s Ada Zolesi, who proved to be the Eagles’ most consistent offensive spark, scored a team-high 21 points including an early 3-pointer that kept the Eagles hanging around.
Neither team was crisp in the first half, but the Indians’ hot start proved to be the difference as Daniel Sturdivant was stifled inside as Tremont’s only post player with Cody North out due to an injury.
A bucket from Hamer and a 3-pointer from Kennedy stretched IAHS’ lead to as much as 16, but Zolesi responded before the half with the final 5 points before the buzzer to send the Eagles into the break trailing 34-21.
The early part of the second half mimicked the first with an IAHS run. The Indians scored on their first four possessions of the third quarter including a Dossett 3-pointer that put the game out of reach of a Tremont comeback.
Along with Hamer, Dossett and Andrew McDonald scored in double digits with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Playing catch up
With so many dual-sport athletes wrapped up in football season until mid-November, pushing back basketball was a big move.
Instead of playing the first few weeks without many of its key players, the Indians now get to take on their schedule at full strength. The flip side of that, however, is that they find themselves having to build chemistry on the fly.
“We are behind a lot,” Hill said. “A lot of teams have a couple weeks of practice on us, then they have had six or seven games. We are way behind, but the good thing about it is that we are getting to play games and are getting in the gym every day. Time will tell how good of a shot we will have at competing in the division.
“Another good thing is that everybody is healthy,” he continued. “The football players are not dinged up, so once we are in full swing, I look for everything to take shape sometime in late December.”
The Indians will look to continue their progression tomorrow when they compete in the Belmont Tournament.
Zach Adams can be reached at 862-3141 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.