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PJC men’s basketball coach Chuck Taylor said he is “really excited” about his team, which won its first three scrimmages on Saturday in the Metroplex.
Playing in the Mullens Jamboree in Lewisville along with 105 other junior colleges, the Dragons defeated Independence, Kan., 41-30; East Mississippi 43-41; and Western Texas 47-41.
That’s a far cry from a year ago, when Paris lost all of its pre-season scrimmages, then struggled through a 15-16 record in Region XIV play and suffered a first-round exit from the post-season tournament via an embarrassing 90-68 loss to Lamar State-Port Arthur.
“I’m really excited about my team. We’ve got some really good people, and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to take a step back in the right direction and keep moving and improving,” Taylor said.
Taylor used the same starting alignment for all three scrimmages Saturday, all of which were played with two 20-minute halves and a running clock:
Game One — After trailing 20-19 at the half, Paris outscored Independence, Ky., 20-6 en route to a 41-30 victory.
Taylor: “It was a great start. We came out a little jittery because it was our first game against a different opponent, but we came out in the second half and really locked in and got some easy transition buckets. I thought the youngsters came out and did really well. Haynes is going to be a good player for us, and Brandon Scott (6-0 freshman guard from Richardson) came on and did well.” White got two quick blocks and some big rebounds, and 6-9 sophomore post Nouhoum Bocoum of Harlem, N.Y., went to the basket with authority for two quick goals after he went in. Taylor said he was “pleasantly surprised” by how Bocoum and White did, particularly on defense.
Game Two — Paris struggled against the good defense of East Mississippi and didn’t score its first field goal until 11 minutes deep into the scrimmage. Down 26-14 at the half and 30-14 after the first couple of minutes of the second half, the Dragons caught fire, led by Austin, who had four straight steals and drives to the basket for eight points. Scott and Haynes also had steals, followed by transition buckets, in a 26-3 run that turned the 30-14 deficit into a 40-33 lead with 3:10 to play. East Mississippi hit two 3-pointers to pull to within 40-39 and took advantage of a turnover to get the ball back and score with 11 seconds left for a 41-40 lead. Things looked bad when the Dragons lost the ball out of bounds with 4.6 seconds to play. But Haynes intercepted the throw-in and nailed a 3-pointer as time expired for a pulsating 42-40 victory.
Taylor: “The thing about these guys, one thing I know we can do, we can score the ball. We’ve got light ways to go defensively. If this team can figure a way to lock in and guard, they can be pretty good. Right now, we’re just average, but we’ve got some guys who can score. I like our bench. Scott and Darin Minniefield (a 6-0 freshman guard from Houston) did some good things. One thing we’re lacking, our guys have got to have a sense of urgency every game. Once we get that, we’ll be in really good shape.” Asked if he was OK with Haynes’ game-winner at the buzzer, Taylor laughed and said, “Yeah, I’ll take that! And you can quote me: It was just how I drew it up!”
Game Three: Taylor substituted more liberally against a tough Western Texas team than in the earlier two scrimmages, but Scott and Haynes each hit a pair of 3-pointers and the Dragons made 10-of-14 free throws for a 47-41 win despite a 20-17 halftime deficit. Keith Shivers, a 6-4 guard from the Washington, D.C. area, knocked down a resounding dunk for a 40-36 lead, and Western Texas never regained the lead.
Taylor: “We had some contributions from some other people. I thought Shivers did a great job, and Terrell Colbert (a 6-4 freshman guard from Angleton) came off the bench and did a great job. Our offense is much further ahead than our defense, but our guys have little stretches where we really do well. You know, we had a two-hour drive to get here, and we’ve been gym-hopping all day (to get to three different courts in Lewisville), so it was kind of an ordeal. But we’re getting better, and we’re doing some really good things, so I”m proud of these guys. We’ve got to get ready to go, but you know, it has been a good trip. I see a lot that we’ve got to work on, and get better, and we’ll start that process in the coming week.”
The Dragons’ next competition is at the Hunt
Center on the PJC campus on Saturday, at a time to be announced. It will be a three-way meet among Paris, Richland College and East Texas Flight, with each team playing both of the other two clubs.
Richland College is coached by Bill Foy, former PJC head coach who took the Dragons to the NJCAA national championship in 2005.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra