Pelham’s Darrius Spence (23) is one of four Hornet players averaging in double figures, helping Pelham to a 15-3 record. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
Pelham High School boys coach Laron Smith thought his Hornets could have a chance to have a special season.
If a 15-3 overall record, a perfect 7-0 Region 1-AA record and a current 11-game winning streak are the makings of perhaps a special season, then Smith’s Hornets are heading in the right direction.
While The Herald No. 1 Pelham girls, because of their unbeaten 18-0 record, garner most of the headlines, the boys have quietly played championship-caliber basketball. Smith hopes his team’s best play begins in February when the region and state tournaments begin.
The Hornets returned four senior starters in Jaquan Green, Shaquille Crimley, Darrius Spence and Trevon Smith. In addition, seniors Duntrez Moore and Quendarian Haywood, as well as juniors Clarence Almond and Joshua Russell, returned after coming off the bench and playing valuable minutes last season.
In fact, the only player who didn’t return was Shydarius Williams, who graduated.
The Hornets have been balanced on offense with Crimley, Spence, Green and Moore all averaging 10 or more points.
Pelham lost twice to Seminole County and once during a Christmas tournament to Warner Robins. The Hornets haven’t lost in January.
“That Warner Robins team was pretty good … they are ranked in the Top 10 in Class AAAAA,” Smith said. “But we’re a team that is about 10 deep, which has been beneficial all season for us. Our second group of players have gotten to play a lot of minutes for us.”
The Hornets travel to meet Thomasville tonight. A victory over the Bulldogs as well as a win over Early County on Saturday would clinch the Region 1-AA regular-season title with a week left to play before the region tournament.
The Hornets’ strength has been their depth. Smith told a story about White, who missed two games last weekend because of a football recruiting trip to The Citadel.
The Hornets won both games over Cook and Mitchell County by convincing margins.
“We didn’t hardly miss him,” Smith said of White. “We missed having him here, and we’re glad to have him back with us, but we had some other guys step up for us due to our depth. I’ve been on the other side where you only have six or seven deep, and it’s tough.”
Smith knows the Hornets’ program could be strong for several seasons. Not only are his underclassmen receiving valuable playing time, but his junior varsity team is also having its share of dominance. The 15-player squad is 10-0.
“We have the potential to make some noise,” Smith said.
MITCHELL’S HOLTON PLAYING WELL: Mitchell County coach Rosemary Sanders has been pleased with her team’s play this year. The Lady Eagles’ only losses have been to Herald No. 1 Pelham twice, No. 4 Randolph-Clay twice and Class AAAAA’s Valdosta High School.
Part of that success has been due to post player Shonbreka Holton. In the senior’s past three games, Holton has averaged 15 points, including a 26-point effort in a 55-44 victory over Lee County on Jan. 21. She followed that effort up with 16 against Miller County on Jan. 24.
“She’s been a big part of our success,” Sanders said. “She’s a good kid who works hard on the court. She’s fun to be around.”
Holton and A’Miracle Jones have been two of Mitchell’s go-to players. Sanders said she has experimented with using Jones at guard.
“Once we get the right mix with our guards, I believe we can go a long way,” Sanders said. “Right now, our post players have been leading the team, but we’ve got to get better play from our guards.”
CLASS A POWER RANKINGS: Seminole County’s loss to Calhoun County last Saturday pushed the Indians out of The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll, but it didn’t knock the Indians from the top spot in the Class A boys public school state rankings this week. The top 16 teams make the state tournament.
Seminole County at 14-2 still occupies the top spot, while Herald No. 5 Calhoun County (17-1) moved up to fourth. No. 4 Randolph-Clay (15-3) is fifth.
On the girls side, Randolph-Clay is second, while Mitchell County is sixth.
ONE WEEK LEFT: There is still a lot to be decided in Region 1-AAAA as the final week approaches. Worth County plays host to Westover on Tuesday in a game that has region title implications. Monroe and Albany High, currently tied for fourth with 6-6 records in region play, meet Feb. 7 at Darton College.
The Westover boys also have to make-up their game with Crisp County that was postponed by weather on Tuesday. The date and time will be announced later.
On the girls side, Monroe has clinched the regular-season title, but the Nos. 2-4 seeds for the region tournament are up for grabs between Crisp County, Westover, Americus-Sumter and Dougherty.
AMERICUS-SUMTER’S WRIGHT RETIRING: Americus-Sumter girls basketball coach Evelyn Wright, after 35 years of coaching, will retire after the season. During halftime of the boys game with Crisp County on Feb. 7, a retirement ceremony will be held in Wright’s honor.