FULTON • Houlka senior Dashun Berry can still score at ease, but now he’s trying to get his teammates involved first.
Berry led the state of Mississippi in scoring last season as a junior at 29.8 points per game, but this summer he’s working on a pass-first mentality. That was on display in two games held at the ICC Davis Event Center on Thursday.
Houlka played Mantachie and won 54-45. Berry finished with 30 points but only had 13 in the first half and racked up a few assists.
In the second game, Houlka played South Lamar, Alabama, and won 52-50. Berry finished with 26 points, but freshman teammates Seth Winter and Jarell Hamilton came up with the game-tying and game-winning shots in the final minute.
“We are looking to add some scoring options, and these younger guys are stepping up and doing that,” coach Seth Burt said. “We were easy to scout last year. A lot of nights, Dashun would have 30 points and we wouldn’t have another player in double digits.”
Berry is the seasoned veteran on the team. He started on the last Houlka team that made the state tournament in Jackson in 2018, and last season it was him, three eighth-graders and a freshman getting significant playing time.
Now that they’ve played together for a year, Berry believes his teammates are more comfortable on the court.
Winter showed that as he hit the game winner and scored eight points in each matchup.
“Now they’re all a year older and they have a lot of games under their belt,” Berry said. “There’s no more excuses about being young. They look loose and are having fun. That’s what we want.”
The Wildcats ended last season 6-22 but went 3-2 in Division 4-1A.
Both teams Houlka beat on Thursday had strong seasons a year ago. Mantachie had 16 wins and hosted a Class 3A playoff game; South Lamar went 18-8 in Class 1A in Alabama.
Burt knows it’s just summer league, but he likes what he has seen from his guys and hopes to build on the team’s performances the rest of the offseason.
“Our mentality is completely different than it was last year,” Burt said. “I think the struggles we went through last year will prepare us for next season. I think we are headed in that direction, but we still have a lot of work to do.”