By D.E. Wheeler
During the 1994-95 Class 5A North Mississippi Tournament, the Tupelo Golden Wave hosted the Clarksdale Wildcats.
Tupelo was such a good host during that semifinal north half game that Clarksdale earned an easy 82-65 victory. The Wave get to host the Wildcats again Tuesday in a first round north half contest, and Tupelo coach Lee Stratton is hoping for a much different outcome this time.
"They came in here and wore us out last year," Stratton said. "We're definitely glad to get a chance at them again, but still, we're just thrilled to be playing."
The Wave (16-14) earned the right to host Clarksdale by playing some of their best basketball of the season during the Division 2-5A Tournament last week. Tupelo had very impressive first half efforts last week in beating Columbus Tuesday and tournament No. 1 seed Starkville - which had beaten Tupelo in two previous meetings - on Friday.
"I think we just played with a lot more confidence last week, but we've got to have that carry over to this week," Stratton said. "The guys played two fantastic ball games, and we hope to get a third one from them Tuesday."
Clarksdale lost six seniors from the team that beat Tupelo and qualified for the state tournament last season. Despite a lack of experienced players, the Wildcats still managed to get out of Division 1-5A, and only lost by two points to Horn Lake in the tournament finals Friday.
"We've lost 10 ball games by 10 points or less this season," Clarksdale coach Mike Johnson said. "I thought in our division, we could play everybody about even, and we were able to get out."
At least one holdover from the Wildcats that Tupelo played last season is 6-7 senior center Carlos Booker. Two other players that Johnson feels carries the Wildcats hopes is 5-10 senior guard Terrance Stokes and 6-1 sophomore forward Melvin Hawkins.
"Their center is every bit of 6-7. He runs the floor good and he'll have eight to 10 blocked shots per game," Stratton said. "We'll probably take it to him early and see if he can stand our players coming at him.
"Their other players seem small in size, but quick."
Some of the players Stratton will rely on include 6-5 junior John Bradley (18 points, 10 rebounds per game), 6-2 junior Willie Poster (15 ppg), 6-2 junior Donell Watson (14 ppg) and 5-11 junior Richard Rainey (4 assists per game). Stratton complemented Bradley, Watson, Rainey and the Tupelo bench on their play last week.