Tigers have fun, are fun to watch
Start with a basketball team, leave out its top three scorers and rebounders from a year ago, mix in 12 players 6’2” or shorter and put it in one of the toughest areas in Class 5A. Sound like a recipe for disaster? These guys probably lose regularly, right, and probably don’t have much fun?
Chilton County High might not pass the look test, but I’ll bet the Tigers have more fun playing than any other team you’ll see this year. And that’s why they win—CCHS is 2-2 so far with wins over Prattville and Briarwood and losses to Selma and Chelsea. A team this short on, um, height and experience is not supposed to have success against that kind of slate.
Consider its limitations. The tallest Tiger is 6-foot, 2-inch Kenyon Floyd. Three players lost to graduation from last year’s squad—Brian McPherson, Jalarious Mitchell and Ronte Williams—were the top three on the team in the scoring and rebounding categories. So far this season, sophomore guard Nelson Williams leads the team with only about 10 points per game.
As you might expect, coach Donnie Hand expects his team to make up for its lack of size and superstar quality by playing hard and fast. The Tigers utilize a full-court press defense about 80 percent of the time, Hand estimates.
“You have got to be about 10 deep to press,” he said. “I thought we would play more halfcourt offense this year, but [the press] has been effective so we’ve stuck with it. I think [the players] like it; they understand it. Kids always enjoy running around.”
Hand regularly shuffles in 11 players, all of whom are expected to play at breakneck speed for a short period of time until it’s time for the next reserve.
CCHS’s press is made more effective during home games by the Bleacher Creatures, a bloc of students that sit in one area and harass opposing players. The Creatures feed off their team’s style of play, and vice versa. It can be an intimidating combination, as Briarwood found out on Dec. 4. The Lions—who had already pulled out wins on the road against Sylacauga, Thompson and Oak Mountain—had no answer most of the night for the aggressive CCHS defense and fans and lost 64-58. It all adds up to a brand of basketball well worth the price of admission.
“As long as they’re hustling and giving it everything they’ve got, it’s fun,” Hand said. “And we have got to do that this year to have a chance.”