Presley Coleman will tell anyone that his first two years in Winona weren’t easy.
In his first year, the Tigers didn’t win a game and in his second year, the team went 6-23.
In his third season, the Tigers showed some improvement as they went 13-16.
The Tigers are finally reaping the fruits of those first three seasons as they enter the playoffs with a 21-3 record. The Tigers were also 8-0 in Division 3-3A play, earning Coleman Coach of the Year honors in the division.
“We have come a long way from that first season,” Coleman said. “My first year, we didn’t win a game. Last year, we were 13-16 and lost a lot of close games. This year, the chemistry has started to click. We have a good rotation of players and got off to a good start this season.”
The Tigers have four seniors on the squad in Chase Jenkins, Robert McMath, Sean Merritt and Dadarion Small. Merritt and Small were named to the 3-3A All-Division team along with junior Damariya Mister and sophomore Jaiwain Small.
“This year has been the most balanced scoring attack that we have had,” Coleman said. “This year, it has been a team attack and that has made it tough for teams to prepare for. We have multiple guys who are capable of scoring on any given night. And when we beat Yazoo County back in December, I think that gave us a lot of confidence that we could play with anyone. I think that’s when we saw this group could be special.”
Merritt, who is 6-foot-5, has had a breakout season after not playing as a junior. He was named the Division 3-3A Most Valuable Player.
“He was a freshman that first year and has grown a lot,” Coleman said. “He has kicked it into another gear. And he has really elevated his game after Christmas and has made a big impact. And there are games where he may not score a lot of points but has a big impact on the game with his length and rebounding and throwing off shots. He has really improved this year.”
After not playing a district tournament, the Tigers enter the Class 3A State Tournament as the No. 1 seed out of Division 3-3A and will play North Panola on Friday.
“There have been some pros and cons to being off,” Coleman said. “I think it gives us a chance to have everybody healthy. Basketball is a rhythm sport that you hate to go a lot time without playing. But I think it gives us time to have fresh legs and that’s a big part of it this time of year. North Panola is very athletic and won’t have the size we do but will push it up and down the court. They are probably the best team we have played transition wise and that will be a challenge for us.”