The game clock struck zero on Thursday, marking an end to Bevill State’s ACCC Tournament semifinal game against Snead State and the Bears’ season.
The finish is obviously disappointing to the coaches and players, as well as Bevill State fans who had dreams of a conference title and a trip to NJCAA Tournament in Kansas to play for a national title.
Although I share in some of that disappointment, we should celebrate what has been achieved in the past two seasons by the remarkable group of sophomores that helped turn the Bears into one of the ACCC’s top-tier programs.
When Bevill State started basketball back for the 2017-18 season, I thought the mascot should be the Mystery Machine from the Scooby-Doo cartoons — outside of former Dora standout Kenton Petties, who I had covered in his years in the Bulldog athletic programs, Oakman’s Collin Woods and Jasper’s Jarius Williams, the team was a complete unknown.
There was more turnover on the team through the season than in a fast food restaurant as well due to grades, injuries and other off-the-court happenings.
I did get to know a few of the freshmen from the first year’s team, like Chris Freeman and Wanya King who would be key in building a bridge between the basketball program and the media that covered them. Both of those guys were great players and good guys who I will always appreciate tremendously.
It was the freshmen who came in the following year, that would change everything.
In the first regular season game of the year, I met and interviewed Nelson Haskin, who would be one of the most gifted rebounders and shot blockers I’ve ever seen. Nelson turned out to be a real blessing as a member of the media. He has an infectious, positive attitude; always friendly and works very hard.
It all carried into his sophomore year, where he’d be named as a member of the ACCC All-Conference First Team. It was always a joy to call one of his blocks on broadcasts the past two seasons, which I dubbed that he “returned it to the sender.”
Korri Edwards became a pivotal contributor to the team, especially this season. When on the court he fought hard for rebounds and as the year progresses, developed into a great shooter. Off the court, Korri was soft-spoken but extremely polite and easy to interview — a pleasure to cover.
Javon Duncan didn’t play much as a freshman due to injury.
In his sophomore season, his story told us about the great adversity he battled through in bouncing-back from his injury which still nagged him, as well as the layoff for missing most of his freshman season. Javon was a skilled defender and point man — his steals and assists per game always ranked in the Top 10 in the ACCC and he performed well under pressure. He was wonderful to be around and interact with.
Two incoming sophomores this season made a huge impact and as it turned out, were also media-savvy.
Latrell Tate entered the season scoring and making free throws, and never stopped. By the end of the year, he was the conference player of the year after being the ACCC’s leader in points per game and free-throw shooting. Another positive young man, Latrell’s interview’s were easy and he was great to be around.
Grant Perry showed great three-point shooting this year and contributed well when called upon. Grant worked hard on the court and when interviewed, his easy-going demeanor showed brightly.
Head coach Tommy Suitts has done a great job in just three seasons into molding the Bears into a contender and recruiting young men of character.
His being named ACCC North Division Coach of the Year was well-deserved and I’m eager to see how the Bears will fare in the 2020-21 season.
Regardless, the outgoing sophomores will always be a group I’ll treasure memories of. Wherever the path takes them next, whether that is continuing to play at a four-year university or an early start to their careers, our best wishes for success will go with them.
W. Brian Hale is the sports writer for the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at email@example.com.