When Lee County boys basketball coach Kirven Davis opened his copy of The Albany Herald last week and read a story about his team’s early season struggles — and then later shared the article with his players — he said he felt a wide range of emotions, and most of them weren't good. But he used the article as a way to motivate his guys, and they responded by beating a previously unbeaten Seminole County team.
DONALSONVILLE — Sometime during the celebration of beating rival Randolph-Clay on Dec. 11, the Seminole County boys basketball team lost its intensity.
The fire that fueled a perfect 4-0 start disappeared after that emotional win and was nowhere to be found three days later when they lost to a struggling Lee County, 71-65.
Now that intensity is back — and it might be stronger than ever judging by Tuesday’s rematch against the Trojans when the Indians cruised to a 97-59 victory.
“We put that rematch on our calendar,” Seminole County coach Kevin Godwin said. “We had been practicing really hard and wanted to redeem ourselves.”
Consider the Indians redeemed.
“They were all smiles,” Godwin said about his team, which is now 6-1 overall. “They were excited and had a lot of enthusiasm at the opening tip. The shots just started falling early.”
Seminole didn’t miss too many shots in the first quarter as the Indians jumped out to a 29-16 lead after eight minutes. They led 54-33 at halftime and were only slowed down by a fourth quarter that was shortened due to the mercy-rule clock that was just six minutes long.
Godwin said he was proud of how his kids responded after their big let down in the first meeting.
“We just lacked the intensity when we played them the first time,” said Godwin, whose program beat the Red Devils that night for the first time in his seven years as coach. “We were coming off that emotional win, and it wasn’t there. (Tuesday) we took the floor with a lot of intensity. We were playing ball like we think we are capable of playing.”
Five Indians scored in double figures: Jamal Martin 20, Robert Speights 18, Jordan Harris 15, Shavon Wiggins 14 and Anfernee King 10. Lee County senior Jason Brown was the lone Trojan to break into double digits with 12 points.
The Indians end their pre-Christmas schedule today with a make-up game at Early County against a Bobcats team they have lost five in a row to.
“You want to play well going into Christmas break, and right now we are playing well,” Godwin said. “We hope it continues well for one more night, but it won’t be easy in Early County. It never is.”
LEE COUNTY BOYS MOTIVATED: When Kirven Davis opened his copy of The Albany Herald last week and read a story about his team’s early season struggles — and then later shared the article with his players — he said he felt a wide range of emotions.
And most of them weren't good.
“It made me a little mad, it upset the kids and some parents, and it offended us, honestly,” Davis said Wednesday. “But it also lit a fire under us because I told the kids that if this is the opinion of many, then we had to do whatever we could to change that.”
That change came immediately.
The Trojans, who had just two wins when the article was published, responded by winning their fourth game of the season — and the victory came against a previously unbeaten Seminole County program that was coming off a huge W of its own vs. Herald No. 3 Randolph-Clay.
But No. 4 also was big for another reason.
It meant that Lee County’s boys team (4-8) equaled last year’s dismal total of four victories the Trojans notched under Tim McPherson, who was replaced by Davis this offseason.
“It’s no secret that last year’s team had talent but just didn’t know how to win, and that was one of the goals this season coming in — to change that mindset,” said Davis, whose previous head coaching experience came at Class AAAAAA Colquitt County, where he spent five seasons. “So coming into that game against Seminole, it was all about us finally learning how to prepare to win a game and then go out and do it. That’s what you saw that night.”
Davis also credits the comfort his players felt by playing in the Trojans’ brand new home gym for just the fourth time in 12 games to start the season.
“It’s not an excuse, those losses on the road, by any means. But this team is young and learning, and they fed off the crowd in that game,” he said. “It was good to be home, and that helped us play better, I think.”
Lee County followed up that win with a loss to Westover — but the defeat must be put in perspective. In Westover and Lee’s first meeting of the year, it was ugly: Patriots 80, Trojans 35.
But the second showdown — Westover 59, Lee 48 — demonstrated what Davis felt was drastic improvement.
“We lost, but we played together,” the coach said. “That’s all I can ask as we keep learning.”
Of course, if you happened to take a gander at the previous notebook item before this one, you know how Lee County fared in the rematch a week later against Seminole, which exacted revenge to the tune of a 38-point blowout.
And Davis was none too pleased with the two-steps-forward, one-step-back mentality he saw his team take on during the game. In fact, after halftime — and down just 15 points — he benched his starters, including leading scorer Jason Brown, who took a seat with a team-high 12 points.
Davis said he wanted to make a point.
“I just wasn’t happy with what I was getting from my starters, my older guys,” he said. “They didn’t like it, but they understood when I explained why I did it to them later at practice in a team meeting. I explained, ‘We’re a team, and as a team, we have to make sacrifices — especially the guys on the bench who have to sit there and watch and cheer you on every night.’
“So I wanted (the starters) to switch roles and have them watch from the bench and cheer (the backups) on.”
As for the drastic difference in the outcomes of the first and second games? Davis and Godwin both agreed on what took place.
“I think it was two-fold: They came to our place thinking it was going to be an easy win, and we caught them off guard (by being better than they thought we were),” Davis said. “And then when we went down there, we made the same mistake they did: We thought that since we’d already beaten them, we’d just go do it again. That’s what we have to learn. It doesn’t work like that. We’ve gotta go earn every win.”
Lee County is off for the rest of December, but when the Trojans return to the floor Jan. 5 at home against Pelham, they’ll get a chance to show their coach they’re practicing what he’s preaching. After all, the Hornets are one of four teams Lee has beaten, and he expects his guys not to take them lightly like they did against Seminole.
“It’s good we’ve got some time off to practice and keep getting better, and it’s good we’re playing a team we’ve beaten already,” Davis said. “We’ll know real quickly (come Jan. 5) if we’ve learned anything.”
CALHOUN BOYS OFF TO GREAT START: Despite losing eight seniors off last year’s team, the Calhoun County boys are off to a 6-3 start following Tuesday’s 74-58 victory against Worth County.
Gone are leading scorers Marquez Williams and Vincent Powell, and a trio of young guns have replaced them, including sophomore DaJohn Williams, who scored a game-high 29 points in Tuesday’s win, and fellow sophomore Quenten Taylor, who added 11. Both are averaging around 20 points a game, and coupled with returners like Isaiah Hallmon (15 points on Tuesday) and Sherrod Williams, coach Marcus Shaw likes this year’s team so far.
“Most of my young guys played at a varsity level last year, so, honestly, I kind of expected them to come out and lead like that have,” he said. “The puzzle is coming together nicely.”
Calhoun returns to action against Coffee County on Dec. 27 at the Turner County Christmas Tournament.
BAINBRIDGE GIRLS BATTLING INJURY, ROUGH START: After Tuesday’s 54-22 loss to Thomasville, second-year Lady Bearcats coach Kelvin Cochran was a little shaken.
Just like his team.
“We lose our two best ball handlers (sophomores Alex Carter and Beonka Madge) to injury early in the season, and we’re inexperienced right now,” said Cochran, whose team is off to a 1-5 start one season after going 21-7 and reaching state. “We have plenty of talent, but we have to get some confidence and believe in what we’re doing. Twenty-two points, against anyone, is not good.”
No one broke double figures in the loss for Bainbridge, which got six points each from Tiny Jeffrey and Longeishia Emanuel.
Carter (shoulder) should be back soon, Cocharn said, while Madge (broken hand) is out for at least three more weeks.
Bainbridge returns to action Dec. 27 against Brunskwick in the annual Thomasville Hoopfest.
WESTWOOD BOYS 43, CRISP ACADEMY 22: In just its fourth game of the season after a late start because the football team reached the state title game again, Westwood evened its record at 2-2. The scoring for both teams came from a pair of stars in other sports at each school: Mitch Good, Westwood’s quarterback, led with 12, while Jordan Howard, a standout for Crisp’s 2011 state champion baseball team, scored 12.
Albany Herald sports editor Danny Aller contributed to this report