It’s time to turn the page as we do every December and turn out attention away from football to basketball. But before I get into this year’s basketball teams, I just have to say I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun covering football in Marion County as I did this year.
To have Columbia finish 13-1 and West Marion 12-2, while Jeff Davis County lost to both of them in the regular season only to be the team that knocked them both out of the playoffs and win the Class 3A title was a bit flabbergasting to me.
From the get go I had Columbia pegged as the team that would go all the way in 3A as many others did. I honestly believe if the Wildcats didn’t have their early fourth-quarter drive against Jeff Davis in the south state championship killed by a questionable pass interference that ultimately led to a blocked punt that Columbia would be celebrating a state championship right now. Columbia had all the momentum, was about to tie the game and had it all ripped right from its grasp.
Then for West Marion to go from not making the playoffs last year to winning 12 games is nothing short of remarkable.
And for East Marion to go undefeated in Region 8-2A after making the leap back up from Class 1A was quite incredible in its own right.
There are a lot of seniors departing this year from the four schools that I got to cover from their freshman year that I’m going to miss watching on Friday nights. It was a fun ride.
Yet now in a flash it’s basketball season, and there’s been a ton of turnover on several teams. The East Marion boys team went from winning the state title last year to starting off 0-8 so far this year. The Eagles have some extenuating circumstances with arguably their best player, Vashon Sims, out for the year with an injury suffered in a car accident. And they have played an incredibly difficult schedule, and I’m sure they will be in the mix come February, but it’s surprising to see them winless nonetheless.
Then there’s the Columbia Academy Lady Cougars. In my eyes they won the state championship last year, and all you have to do is enter the gym at CA and look immediately to your left to find the proof. But now their entire starting lineup is gone from last year’s squad, and they’re 4-11 to start the year. They are playing a ton of youngsters, and it’s going to take some time for them to come around.
The most surprising revelation has been the success of the CA boys team. The Cougars were ousted in the first round of the south state playoffs on yet another controversial call, but now they are 11-1 and have several wins over much bigger schools. They’re led by Tate Duncan and Ras Pace, and I’d be seriously surprised if they aren’t playing for the state title this year.
Both Columbia teams have been ravaged by injuries so far but have been in just about every game nonetheless. If both of them can get and stay healthy, they can make some noise in the 3A playoffs this year, especially the boys team.
Out at West Marion there seems to be a shift in the basketball culture in Foxworth. Since I’ve been here both West Marion squads have struggled, but they have more talent than they’ve had in the past four years and have the potential to pull off some upsets this year.
I’ve never had to advocate for the community to get out and enjoy football or baseball/softball, but the attendance at basketball games in Marion County seems to always be lacking unless two of the schools are playing each other. But if you don’t get out this year and support your teams on the hardwood, you’re going to miss out on some good basketball and some really good times.
Joshua Campbell is sports editor of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him via email at email@example.com or call (601) 736-2611.