Charlie Warriner almost won the MAIS Overall boys basketball championship last season in his first year as Hillcrest Christian’s head coach. Warriner’s Cougars lost to Heritage Academy in the championship game.
He wants to go one more step this season. Warriner took another step in that direction Tuesday night with a 53-49 victory over Magnolia Heights in the Class 4A state tournament at Hartfield. Magnolia Heights upset Heritage last weekend in the North 4A tournament.
Hillcrest has a 26-9 record and starts two seniors (6-foot point guard Harrison Carr and 6-5 forward John Dixon) two eighth-graders (6-1 guard Will McCrory and 6-1 guard Carter Mullins) and one freshman (6-3 forward Cam Beverly). Mel Collins, a 6-5 sophomore forward, is the first player off the bench.
“Harrison is our floor leader,” Warriner said. “He has shown a tremendous amount of leadership for these young guys and keeps them calmed down when it gets intense. These young guys are very talented, but make youthful mistakes.
“Teams don’t like us because we like to press the whole game. We are in tremendous shape and win a lot of games because of our pressure.”
Warriner, who played basketball at Woodland Hills Baptist Academy and was a walk on at Mississippi State, coached at Veritas for seven years until it closed in 2016. He was a successful girls basketball coach at Veritas with three state runner-up finishes.
“We never had a girl over 5-7, but we were quick and fast,” Warriner said.
Hillcrest plays Bayou Friday at 7:45 p.m. in the 4A state semifinals. The winner qualifies for next week’s Overall at Mississippi College in Clinton. The loser must win Saturday to advance.
Brian Cronin has been a part of five state boys basketball championships, one as a player and three as an assistant coach at Madison-Ridgeland Academy and one as a head coach of his current team, St. Andrew’s.
If Cronin gets a sixth one, chances are junior point guard Rashad Bolden will lead the way. The 6 ft. Bolden is averaging 24.6 points and is the leader of the 25-6 Saints, who defeated Tylertown 76-54 behind Bolden’s 34 points. Many Metro Jackson high school basketball fans remember Bolden’s dad, Randy, who was an All-State performer at Forest Hill High and All-SWAC selection at Texas Southern. Randy now coaches at Jones County Junior College. Facing elimination last Saturday, Rashad had one of his best games in his career. He scored 42 points with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot in a 71-41 win over Crystal Springs. He made 14 of 22 shots from the field and 14 of 19 free throws. Bolden is shooting 47 percent from the field, 35 percent from 3 point range, and 84 percent from the free throw line this season.
St. Andrew’s plays in possibly the toughest region in the state along with defending Class 3A state champion Velma Jackson and 3A state contenders Yazoo County and Crystal Springs. St. Andrew’s will play Southeast Lauderdale Saturday at 6 p.m. in Meridian.
Cronin, who is in his 11th season at St. Andrew’s, has more than Bolden. Other starters are 6-5 senior forward Arness Georgetown (10.2 points), 6-3 sophomore guard Jake Dodwell (11.3 points), 6-4 sophomore guard Javion Johnson (6.4 points) and 6-2 senior center Noel Wiggs (6.4 points).
Brandon’s girls basketball team ended its season last year when it lost at Biloxi in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs. The Bulldogs get a return visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Friday when they play at St. Martin in the second round of the 6A playoffs.
“We have the same situation. We hope to get it done this time,” said second-year Brandon coach Candice Foster. Foster knows how to get it done. She was a part of three consecutive Class 5A state titles at Murrah (2007-2009) and also played four seasons at Mississippi State. She also was a graduate assistant coach under MSU coach Vic Shafer and his highly successful Lady Bulldog program. Foster taught English at Chastain Middle School in Jackson before being an assistant under Stephanie Murphy at Brandon for one season. Foster took over for Murphy last year when Murphy took the job as coach at Coahoma Community College.
Brandon’s visit to the Gulf Coast ended last season with a 17-15 record. The Bulldogs, which four returning starters, are 21-7 after Monday’s 62-41 victory over Gulfport at Brandon. The four returning starters are senior guard Jamya Blue (12.2 points per game), 6-3 senior center Janai Mason (6.9 points), senior forward Xamaria Luckett (4.6 points) and junior point guard Tandria Minor (9.8 points). The fifth starter is Brandon’s leading scorer, junior guard Gabrielle Collier (14.2 points per game).