By Parrish Alford
There's a sense of urgency on the east side of Lee County. The Mooreville Troopers know this is their chance their last one.
"Yeah, I'm starting to hear some of them talk about it," Mooreville coach Rex Berryman said.
Most of the talk has come from a core group of four seniors, who have been full or parttime starters since the ninth grade. Terrence Smith, Sam Staples, Rhasheen Dilworth and Anthony Hurd are starting to realize that this is their last chance to win a basketball state championship at Mooreville High School.
"I try not to hear everything in the locker room," Berryman said. "But I have heard them talking to the rest of the team about this being their last shot. They know they need some help. They know that with a team as small as us, any team can beat you on a given night."
The given nights have been few and far between of late. The Troopers, 22-7 heading into tonight's 1-2A semifinals at home, have won eight of nine games since a Lee County Tournament loss to Tupelo. The lone setback was a one-point decision to East Union in the Hotbed Classic at New Albany.
Berryman credits Smith, a versatile 6-footer, with pushing his teammates during the run.
"He's not blessed with the ability of those other three seniors, but he refuses to lose," Berryman said. "He plays anything from point guard to senior in the same game. On defense he guards anyone from the center to the point guard.
"He's been a leader the whole year through his hustle. The other players can't afford to be out there and be shown up. He's so into the game that he'll show them up with his hustle if they're not hustling."
Smith is averaging seven points and seven rebounds a game. He's averaging almost 10 points a game since Christmas, and he's almost doubled his rebound production for a guard-dominated lineup. Hurd leads the Troopers with 16.8 points a game, and Dilworth is next with 16.3.
Berryman likes his team's chances since the senior quartet has shifted gears.
"They're starting to realize this could be it for them," he said. "Any time you lose it hurts, but if you're a senior and you realize it's your last game, it's tough. If we lose this time of year, they're not going anywhere."