Jemison Middle caps unbeaten season

Strong drive: Jemison eighth grader ShunDerrius Strong drives to the lane against rival Clanton on Friday in the Panthers’ last game of the season. JMS won, 28-14, to cap off an 11-0 season. Strong scored 12 points in the game and led the team with a 16 points-per-game average.

Jemison Middle School’s basketball team on Friday wrapped up an undefeated season, defeating rival Chilton County, 28-14.

ShunDerrius Strong scored a game-high 12 points and has averaged a team-best 16 points on the season, but coach James Morrison said his team’s success has been more about defense than offense.

The first word Morrison used to describe his Panthers (11-0) was “aggressive,” as in a defense that pressures opponents into turnovers.

“We let the defense create our offense,” he said.

Jemison Middle’s aggressive defense was evident in Friday’s win as well as a game against West Blocton earlier in the season, in which the Panthers surrendered a single point in the first half and six points the whole game.

JMS also benefitted from Morrison last season creating a team solely of seventh graders. The seventh grade team played only two games—and lost both of them—but the experience was invaluable because the middle school team, which is comprised solely of seventh and eighth graders, lost 10 eighth graders from 2009.

With that many eighth graders, it would have been difficult to allow last year’s seventh graders much court time were it not for the seventh grade team, which included six players.

“It wasn’t so much about wins and losses; it was about getting playing time,” Morrison said. “They knew coming in (to this season), when I called out a drill during practice, they could lead it.”

Still, there were no early signs JMS would be so good.

At a preseason camp at Birmingham-Southern College, the Panthers won one out of seven practice games.

That made the first game of the season, against Montevallo on Nov. 4, a pivotal contest. JMS won, 31-21, in a game that was closer than the score would indicate.

Brimming with confidence when they played Montevallo again, the Panthers won, 39-22.

“Coming into the season, I knew I had a young team, so I knew we had to focus on the fundamentals—and we did that,” Morrison said.

The Jemison Middle team includes eighth graders Derek Millard, Tyler Henderson, Gabe Hayes, Strong, Christian Gilliland, Wesley Martin, Griffin Burnette and Tevonte Brown; and seventh graders Mason Jones, Matt Ramsey, Tremon Bryant, Brock Higgins and Cade Hatch.

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