There are only so many things to do in New Site, and basketball is one of them.
So far, the high school’s boys are playing basketball exceptionally well. The Royals are 9-0 after a thrilling 81-79 win against Lindsay Lane of Athens, Alabama, at the Lighthouse Classic in Corinth on Saturday afternoon.
New Site has been a consistent winner under Rick Howell, who’s in his fourth season as coach. He’s won at least 23 games each year, and this year’s edition could be as good as any he’s had.
“We’re kind of like the Hoosiers,” Howell said, referencing the Hickory Huskers of cinematic fame. “Our kids know fishing, hunting and basketball – and then school, in about that order.”
The Royals are anchored by fourth-year starter Walker Moreland, a senior. Moreland said he doesn’t actually fish or hunt, because he’s too busy staying in the gym.
That dedication is why he’s been such a prolific scorer during his career. He averaged 19.3 points per game and led the state in 3-pointers made last season.
It looked like even more of the scoring load would fall on him after point guard Bryton Smith (14.1 ppg) and Chandler Johnson (6.5 ppg) transferred to Booneville.
But players like Ethan Eaton and Carson Fitzsimmons have stepped in. Against Lindsay Lane, Fitzsimmons scored 20 points on 10 of 12 shooting and made the game-winning basket with 4 seconds left, while Eaton added 12 points.
In all, five Royals scored in double figures.
“They’ve taken a load off me,” Moreland said. “I don’t have to score 30, 40 points a game. I know my teammates can step up when I’m not hitting.”
Fitzsimmons, who averaged 9.9 ppg last season, credited Howell with his improvement.
“He boosts me, and I’ve become a lot better player than I was last year,” he said.
New Site’s hot start isn’t because it’s been beating up on cupcakes. Lindsay Lane is led by Tommy Murr, who averaged 44 ppg game coming in. He notched 46 against New Site, but he didn’t have quite enough help.
The Royals, who are in Class 2A, own four wins over 4A teams and another over 6A Lewisburg. Howell said it’s team chemistry that’s got his team clicking thus far.
“You look at our team, we don’t have college coaches banging the doors down to get us,” he said. “But we play cohesively. They run their offensive sets well. We set a lot of screens – we’ve got to. We’ve got some kids that can shoot.”
New Site returns to action on Tuesday at Kossuth.