After playing four games in five days in the south state 3A tournament last week, the Hazlehurst Indians, 23-9, needed a rest before beginning play in the state tournament on Tuesday night. Tired or not, the Indians are on a roll and are hungry for that gold ball.
“I’m tired, so I know our players are tired,” said Tim McDaniel, the head coach of the Indians.
In four games in the south state 3A tournament last week, the Indians averaged 86.5 points per game. The run-and-gun style of play installed by McDaniel has proven to be the winning combination for Indian team of late. McDaniel has no starters over six feet tall, so the guard-oriented Indians like to push the ball up the floor and assert high pressure on defense. The proof is in the pudding: the Indians defeated Choctaw Central 82-80 in overtime on Saturday evening to earn a berth in the MHSAA state 3A tournament in Jackson this week.
One Indian in particular, senior guard Fred Fuller, has taken the reigns in this fast-paced offense. Last week Fuller hit for 21 against West Marion, 26 against Wilkinson, 38 against Pass Christian and 29 against Choctaw Central, averaging just under 29 points per game. Fuller was named to the all 6-3A team after the Indians won the district tournament last week, and he was voted as the tournament’s Best Offensive Player, as well. This past week he was selected for the All-South State 3A tournament team.
“Fred is playing really well, right now,” McDaniel said on Monday. “Teams haven’t been able to stop him and his quickness on the dribble keeps our opponents guessing.”
Other Indians who have helped the Indian surge as of late are Gabriel Gray and Eric Walker, who have averaged well into double figures this post-season in helping their team to a berth in the state 3A tournament in Jackson this week. Gray joined Fuller on the All-District 6-3A tournament team. Walker earned All-South State 3A honors, also.
The Indians came so very close to knocking off top-ranked Pass Christian on Friday night. Hazlehurst led by as many as fourteen points in the second half, before Pass Christian took the lead at 78-77 just past the halfway point in the third quarter.
The Indians closed the gap to one at 90-89 with a little over 2 minutes left in the fourth period, but three costly decisions allowed P. C. to run the lead back out to seven. The Indians took three “bad shots in a row” on consecutive possessions, McDaniel said, resulting in three easy lay-ups the other way for P. C.
From there, the Indians could not catch up, and P. C. won the high-scoring affair 101-93.
McDaniel ‘s team might be tired, but they are healthy and will be ready to play on Tuesday. “We are looking forward to the challenge that East Side presents. We know they are just as hungry as we are and will be ready to play.
“We need everyone of our fans, students, parents and other supporters to come to the game. Our players have earned their support and need a good crowd,” McDaniel added.
The Indians will play Cleveland East Side, North 3A runners-up, at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday at the Mississippi Coliseum. Tickets are $10 and can be purchase at the door.
Hazlehurst is making its first trip to the Big House since 2006, when the Indians faced a tough Nettleton team.