By Johnny Sanders, Sports Editor
BOYS: The Pinson Valley Indians’ boys basketball team are off to another great start in 2024. They began the season with five straight wins before heading to Yazoo City, Mississippi and dropping a game to them, a close one, 45-43 to the 9-0 Indians in their gym on November 24 in the Lighthouse Classic. Four days later, the Indians went to Paul Bryant, where they picked up another close loss. The Stampede beat Pinson by a score of 60-57.
Thus far, players like Clyde Walters, Austin Conner and emerging players like Quay Lynch and Amari Bowens have all stepped into leadership roles and led the team in all statistical categories in the absence of the team’s leader, Caleb White, who passed away in the summer. You don’t replace a Caleb White, but these young men have rallied around their fallen leader and played well in his absence.
The Indians were set to play a potential revenge game on Monday against Paul Bryant, but the game is being rescheduled. That date is yet to be determined. Pinson will take on Huffman on Tuesday night in an effort to end the rare losing streak that they find themselves in at the moment. Huffman is currently 1-5 on the season.
Head Coach Darrell Barber had the following to say about his team’s performance thus far, “Right now, we are trying to see what our identity is. We have done a good job defending the first nine games. We fell short in the game over in Mississippi, had a chance to win at the buzzer against the defending state champs. Then we went into the hostile environment in Tuscaloosa and had a chance to win there as well. We will be fine down the stretch. We are doing a good job sharing the ball. We’ve got a few new pieces in and it’s just a matter of getting them to gel. We are trying to figure it out. It’s an uphill battle with mindset, but we are figuring it out. From the outside, the kids seem to be responding well to Caleb’s loss. It’s still an uphill battle. They try to play for him and we are doing a good job, but it obviously goes through your mind.”
GIRLS: Breaking in a new coach is never easy, for the team nor the coach, but new Pinson Girls Basketball coach Tamara Gills is doing a pretty good job so far in 2024. Gills comes to the Indians from just across town at Center Point High School. Right out of the gate, Coach Gills had to help her girls navigate the death of a fellow classmate and friend, Caleb White.
Despite all of the challenges, the new lady in charge of the Indians has her team setting at 5-3, one win away from doubling the win total from a year ago.
The Indians started the season with a win against Leeds on the road, followed by consecutive losses (Homewood and Minor) before beating Midfield and losing to Pleasant Grove. They have now won their last three games in a row to get to that five-win total. Included in those three wins are a 59-9 drubbing of Fultondale and a 20-point win over Paul Bryant (62-42).
Boys: A handful of Moody’s basketball players also play football, so the Blue Devils, knowing that their football team would be successful and make a playoff run, started the season late, not playing their first game until November 20. The opener was against Gardendale, a 97-45 loss. After that, Moody played four games in one week, going 2-2 in the stretch with wins over Donoho and Vincent. The Blue Devils sit at 2-3 after their first five games of the season with a trips to Oneonta (12/5) and Calera (12/7) looming.
“We played four games last week,” said head coach Chad Bates. “We went 2-2. It was a big transition week from football to basketball. We have a long way to go but the guys are starting to figure it out. With every new year comes new leaders and guys have got to step up. For us to be the best we can be, we need everyone to do their job, every day.”
Girls: Becca Davis has her girls playing at a high level five games into the season! The Lady Blue Devils are a perfect 5-0 as it stands, with wins over John Carroll (66-14), Gardendale (81-67), Homewood (61-53), Oxford (42-39) and Vincent (63-16). As you can see, most of the games haven’t even been close. This is a special team led by names like Serenity Rutledge, Tori Pyles, Kendall Stephens and a host of other familiar names from last year’s team.
Coach Davis said, “For the first time in school history, the Moody Varsity Girls basketball team is ranked in the top five in the state. Moody has accumulated several wins over 6A opponents to start the year. Serenity Rutledge leads the team with 15.8 points per game while Jayla Whitsey averages 15 and Tori Pyles averages 11. We are averaging 62.6 points per game while holding opponents to 37.8.”
Boys: Jeremiah Millington and the Greenwave look to improve on a 4-13 record from last year and they are off to a pretty good start. The Greenwave have played five games thus far with a 3-2 record. They beat Saint Clair County in region play, so they are 1-0 already. Much like the Blue Devils, Leeds has several players (9 out of the 15 varsity players) who play both sports, so they pushed their season back as well.
The Greenwave opened the season with consecutive wins over Victory Christian and JCA before dropping a pair of games to Etowah and Hueytown, both close losses. Then, on December 1, they got the 61-52 victory over the Saints to make it 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the region.
Coach Millington had these early thoughts on the season, “We’re a heavy junior-led team with just a few seniors. One senior who has been a three-year starter is Chris Burge, who is currently committed to UAB for football. We are led by our junior point guard, Tabari Davis, who is currently averaging 19 points per game. Will Thomas, Jaelyn Felder and Ty Bedell are all junior guards who provide some good minutes for us this year. Graham Gulock is another junior who can play multiple positions and is one of the smartest players I’ve coached. We feel like we have a good amount of depth and our style of play will represent that. This group plays extremely hard and has a great mindset in everything they do.”
Girls: The Lady Greenwave start out 3-4 for 2024 with wins over JCA (twice) and Etowah. Their losses have come against Pinson Valley, Oneonta, John Carroll and Hueytown. They look to get back into the win column as they travel to Lincoln on Tuesday night and a big rivalry game against Springville on Friday night.
Boys: The Tigers have had a pretty brutal stretch thus far in 2023, opening the season at Clay Chalkville and losing. The boys recovered well from the loss, winning back-to-back games including a victory over the defending 4A state champions, Jacksonville. They are sitting at 5-5 right now with wins over Hayden, Good Hope and Pell City to go with the other two wins.
Brodie Frederick is the Tigers’ leading scorer with 15.8 per game followed by Fred Tripp with 11. Tripp leads in rebounds with 5.8 per game and Jake Isbell has 3.7 to go with 2 assists per game from Braden Henderson, which leads the team also.
“We are 5-5 through the first 10 games,” said Brandon Easterwood, Springville’s head coach. “Hopefully playing a tough schedule early will make us better in February. We placed third in a recent Thanksgiving tournament in Cullman with wins over Hayden and Good Hope. Defeated the defending 4A champions and Pell City. We are still trying to find some consistency and need to minimize turnovers. Our players are working hard every day at practice and learning to play for each other. I feel like we are starting to develop better chemistry.”
The Tigers take on Saint Clair County in region play on Tuesday, followed by Leeds on Friday.
Girls: The Lady Tigers are currently 2-5 on the young 2023 season. They started with losses to Clay Chalkville and Hartselle before beating Jacksonville. They then dropped three of their last four games, scoring another win over Jacksonville in their second meeting of the season.
Coach Warren House and his Lady Tigers look to get back on the winning track this week as they host Saint Clair County Tuesday night and Leeds Friday.