Pack the gyms for SP and ND

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2018

One of my favorite movies is Hoosiers, and I watch it a couple of times a year on television. It’s a terrific movie about a small town in the Midwest that loves its high school basketball team and hires a new coach (played by Gene Hackman) to return the program to its glory days.

My favorite scenes are the ones when Hackman’s team is playing in those old-fashioned crackerbox gyms with the fans close to the floor and stacked to the rafters. In the movie, the fans are so loud the coach had to yell to be heard in the huddle during timeouts.

When I saw that North Delta School has scheduled a home and home with South Panola High School in basketball, I immediately thought about Hoosiers. How much fun are these games going to be if fans can recreate those movie scenes in our local gyms? The girls’ games especially should be super matchups as both rosters are filled with players who can run and shoot with most of the boys in their classes.

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Mark these dates – Tuesday. Nov. 27 and Monday, Dec. 17 – and let’s make these games great community events, hopefully with enough success that the teams become part of each others’ regular schedule.

Think about it. These basketball games are beautiful community-building opportunities the whole city can get involved with and fully support. I hope fans from all over Batesville pack both gyms so tight Fire Chief Tim Taylor has a nervous breakdown. I hope in the spirit of friendly competition the student athletes play their best games ever, and all the games go into double overtime with winning shots at the buzzer.

And in the end I hope we all shake hands and agree that it was the best basketball played in Batesville in many years.

I hear it was Green Wave girls coach Harrison Nickle who proposed the two local teams play a series this season. No one I have talked with can remember North Delta and South Panola playing basketball although most of the kids live in Batesville and the schools are less than five miles apart. Everyone says it’s a great idea, and I think so, too.

Coach Nickle, I suspect, is anxious to see how good his girls really are. After beating the stew out of all the private school teams scattered around, the coach has started scheduling games against the public schools who have more athletes from which to choose.

North Delta will this season play all the academy teams, plus DeSoto Central at Oxford High School and twice against Strayhorn School.

The South Panola girls are no less tough. They have been improving and made it to the first round of the North State tournament last year before falling to perennial powerhouse Murrah High School in Jackson.

The Lady Tigers are aptly coached by Jemmye Ann Helms. The Lady Tigers have a faithful following and draw pretty good crowds on their home floor already. Throw in the extra excitement of playing North Delta and I’m predicting a huge turnout to support South Panola.

The girls’ games are the ones most sports fans are expecting to be the most exciting, but I’m sure the boys will be extra pumped as well. Remember, many of these kids have grown up playing together at J.P. Hudson Park, or at least know each other from different events around town.

While the boys teams haven’t had nearly the success as the girls in recent years, the boys’ program has potential. Will Florence is in his second year at North Delta coaching the boys and we all hope to see that team faring better than these last couple of seasons.

Coach Charlie Howard is still at South Panola – almost 20 years now, although I’ve heard lots of grumbling about the way he has run that program the last few seasons especially. I have to agree with critics who wonder why the South Panola boys team has been so bad in recent years while the football program has done well, and baseball is steadily improving.

Batesville, Pope, and Courtland certainly have the athletes to build a good basketball program, and it’s puzzling why the TIger faithful don’t demand a better team. Let’s hope Coach Howard will this season do the things necessary to make South Panola boys into winners, or step aside and let someone else try.

We will soon have preview features on all our county teams. In Sardis, both the boys and girls teams are really good, and are expected to content for state championships in Class 3A again this year. The boys team is currently ranked No. 2 in the state, and we’re looking for them to stay ranked high all season.

Yes, it’s a good thing that South Panola and North Delta will get together on the hardwood, despite what we’ll hear from the naysayers. Does the Editor expect any trouble. Yes, I do.

I expect trouble finding a parking spot, trouble hearing myself think inside the rowdy gyms, and trouble finding my truck after the games. The lines to get popcorn and a Coke will be long, too.

Come on, folks, let’s pack both gyms to watch these kids play, and show our support for South Panola and North Delta alike. I wouldn’t dare miss these chances to come together with my friends and neighbors for two fun evenings of community-wide fellowship in peaceful and prosperous Batesville.