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December 16, 2013

New coach, youth to lead Berrien hoops squads

TIFTON — There are familiar faces for the Berrien Rebels this basketball squads this year and there are some new ones. That is usually the case with prep sports players, but this year that also applies to the coaches. Tim Hathcock is back for his 4th season at the helm for the Rebelettes, but he has some help. He had the Rebels, too, last year but has handed them off to a new man, Aric Mawdesley.

Hathcock has two seniors on his roster, Stefanie Scurry and Haley Harrell. He said he was counting on both for leadership.

The youth of the team was quite present Friday. "We have to learn to slow down," he said, shortly after he watched them pull out a last second win after losing a double-digit lead to the Early County Lady Bobcats. "But we're going into Christmas 1-0 in the region. It was a big-time win."

Their goal is to make it back to the state tournament, an achievement that has escaped them since 2000. That, coincidentally, was also the last time they defeated Early, in a game that qualified them for state.

"I'm excited about the bunch. This is the best group of shooters I've had." He even has his eye on the middle school program. "We have a good 8th grade group coming up."

Looking ahead to further Region 1-AA competition, he said "Pelham's the team to beat." They went to the quarterfinals last year. The rest of the region is up for grabs he thinks. "Two through 7 may be a toss-up."

Mawdesley said one of the things that attracted him to the program was its history. Though they have struggled in recent years, he had heard stories of the glory days. Not just the banners on the wall, but the atmosphere. He said he had been told of a time the players came out out of the locker room spinning basketballs on their fingertips.

Plus, he laughed, the lack of snow. He had previously been an assistant at Truett-McConnell College and has coached in Virginia.

"Nashville community support has been great," he said. This year they were able to erect signs from local businesses on the gym walls. "We have all new uniforms and had a great FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) camp this summer. We're trying to show the kids we're committed to excellence."

Friday saw them nearly erase a 7-point deficit in the final minute against Early. They lost by 2 to drop their record to 2-4, but to him it was a step forward.

"We have some good returners and have been pretty consistent," he said. The lineup includes three seniors, Tariq Alexander, A.J. Wooten and Vernon Payne.

Payne, he said, "has really improved in developing his skills." Wooten has committed to play football at Central Florida.

One of his leading scorers has been Justin Owens, who is only a sophomore. "He's an extremely talented kid offensively," he said.

He has also been thrilled with his point guard, Quinton Tisby, whose leadership he said has been been huge.

Both squads will be at Clinch County tonight. This weekend, they will be at Adel for Cook's holiday tournament. The next home game will be Jan. 3 against Worth County.

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