Photo by Robert Smith

By Robert Wilson

       The Presbyterian Christian School boys basketball program has never won an MAIS class or Overall Tournament championship and the girls team has won two, the last one in the 2013-2014 season when they won both class and Overall titles.

       PCS girls coach Drew Smith and boys coach Josh Sherer are determined to change that, hopefully this year, and the duo both have played a difficult schedule to get ready for the grind of conference play and the playoffs.

       Both teams are coming off tournament championships in the Hilton Sandestin Beach Basketball Blowout last week in Freeport, Fla.

       The girls – led by tournament MVP, William Carey signee and senior guard Addyson Sherer – won three straight games over William Blount, Tenn., 49-46, Space Coast, Fla., 75-41 and Owsley County, Ky., 74-57. The 5-foot-5 Sherer – whose father is the boys coach – averaged 27.3 points and scored a career-high 38 points in the championship game.

       The boys – led by tournament MVP and senior guard Cannon Crowder – won three straight games over Good Hope, Ala., 74-72, White Plains, Ala., 69-46 and Rowan County, Ky., 72-69. The 6-1 Crowder averaged 15 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in the three wins.

       Smith, in his fourth season at PCS, has his girls rolling despite the difficult schedule. The Lady Bobcats have a 15-5 record with all six losses to three talented MHSAA teams, who could win state championships in their classes this season. PCS has two losses each to 6A and undefeated Hancock and 4A Choctaw Central and one loss to 7A Harrison Central. Those three teams have a combined record of 40-4. The Lady Bobcats have played 13 of their 20 games against MHSAA schools.

       “We’ve never played a schedule as hard as this,” Smith said. “These teams we have been playing are helping us get ready for the tough schedule in the MAIS and help us challenge for a state championship and be in the mix for an Overall title. We aren’t concerned about our win-loss record. Beating teams by 30 points doesn’t help us find our weaknesses but playing these bigger schools does. We understand what we need to work on and improve on. Our girls are learning to makes plays against good teams and talented competition. I’m learning to be a better coach because this tough schedule. We are far from the best we can be. Our best games are ahead of us.”

       The PCS girls almost won their second Overall title last season, losing to Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the Overall championship game. PCS finished 33-6 with three losses to MRA.

       Sherer – who needs only nine points to reach 2,500 in her outstanding career (second in school history behind 2015 graduate and former Mississippi Player of the Year Trisha Magee) – is one of two returning starters (5-9 junior Alice Pennebaker in the other one). Sherer averages 20 points and Pennebaker averages 13.

       Sherer, who has been starting since the seventh grade, has made 285 3-pointers in her career. She has made 50 so far this season and is shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range. Sherer made 81 3-pointers and shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range last season as a junior.

       “I feel like Addyson is the top player in our association (MAIS),” Smith said. “She can score from anywhere and any fashion. Addyson is a great ballhandler and is doing it on both ends of the floor. She has taken 31 charges this season, including six in one game. Alice shoots the 3 well and is good for us in a lot of areas.”

       Anna Kate Woodward, a 5-4 freshman point guard, and Olivia Gerald, a 5-8 junior and a transfer from MHSAA Class 1A Sacred Heart Catholic in Hattiesburg, are the other two fulltime starters. Gerald averages five points, and Woodward five points. The post position is alternated between 5-10 junior Pheobe Berry and 6-foot sophomore Karly Hunter, a transfer from MHSAA Class 4A Forrest County AHS.

Photo by Robert Smith

       “Anna Kate has taken a lot of the load and freed up Addyson,” Smith said. “She is getting her confidence and should be strong late in the year. Olivia is a capable scorer and a great hustler. Pheobe rebounds well and does a great job on putbacks. Karley has been coming on strong lately.”

       Sherer – who has won 340 high school wins in 16 seasons at Central Hinds, Lamar School, and PCS and 91 wins in five seasons at Wesley College in Florence – return two starters (senior point guard Turner Vance and Crowder) from last year’s team that finished 25-11 and in fourth place in the MAIS Class 6A state tournament. But Sherer has confidence this year’s team could make a playoff run.

       “We are February focused and eternity minded,” said Sherer, who won an Overall girls championship at Lamar in 2019. “These tough games are preparing us for February (and the playoffs) while never losing sight of the ultimate purpose (for eternal life through Jesus Christ). We have played against the hectic style of Choctaw Central (full court press) and the athleticism of Harrison Central (with 6-9 and 6-8 players). We aren’t intimidated. We aren’t afford to lose.”

       PCS hasn’t lost much, with a 17-3 record.

       Vance makes the Bobcats go. He leads the team with 12.4 points and 3.6 assists per game. Vance has led the team in scoring for the past three seasons. Brooks Roberts – a 6-2 junior guard, a transfer from MHSAA Class 7A Oak Grove and son of former Southern Miss quarterback Lee Roberts – averages 10.3 points per game and has a team-high 44 3-pointers and shoots 41.5 percent from 3-point range. Riley Walton, a 6-5 junior and transfer from MHSAA Class 5A Stone County, averages 9.3 points and a team-high 4.3 rebounds per game. Crowder, who transferred from MHSAA Class 5A South Jones two years ago and was PCS’ starting quarterback for the past two seasons, averages 9 points and 4 rebounds per game. Cave Pennebaker, a 6-5 senior forward, averages 6 points per game.

       “Turner has been our anchor,” Sherer said. “He knows when to pull it out and settle things. Brooks can flat shoot it. He was shooting 48 percent from 3-point range for most of the season. Riley is a left-hander who can shoot it. Brooks and Riley has been good additions to our team. Crowder is learning to play within our system and what good shots are. He has had 17 points and 24 points in the last two games of the tournament. Cave is our glue kid. He brings the team together. Cave has done a great job this season.”

       PCS opens league play next Tuesday when it plays host to MRA.

The girls game is a rematch of last year’s Overall girls championship game. 

Sherer, who finished with a game-high 22 points, scored 11 in the first quarter, making her first five shots from the field, and led PCS to a 16-8 lead, but MRA rallied for a 42-29 win. MRA also defeated PCS 53-49 in the 6A state championship game last season. Sherer scored 28 points in that game. The MRA girls, the defending MAIS Class 6A and Overall champions, are 20-2, with its only Mississippi loss a last-second defeat to MAIS Class 5A championship contender Leake Academy. 

The MRA boys are 22-0 and are the only undefeated team in Mississippi.

Both Smith and Sherer are hoping their rugged preconference schedule will pay dividends starting next week against MRA.