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Boys' Basketball: Bryan County withstand setbacks to kick off season
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Bryan County’s boys basketball team got a delayed start to its season–thanks to the football team’s success–but the wait was worth it.

After rolling to a 71-52 win over Emanuel County Tuesday night for their third straight win following a nail biting 51-50 loss to Portal last Friday, the Redskins were 6-2, 2-1 in region play with a revamped lineup.

And they’re doing it without Tanner Ennis who has been an all-region pick the last two years.

Ennis, a senior who was the Region 3A-DI Defensive Player of the Year in football, was lost for the season following shoulder surgery as a result of an injury suffered midway through the football season.

“That made his play, especially on offense, even more remarkable,” Anderson said. “One of the things about Tanner (in basketball) is he does a lot of the intangibles:  blocked shots, rebounds, good defense, never anything flashy. It was always about the team.”

“Those are qualities hard to replace. We are kind of having to do it by committee. He would come straight to basketball from football and the fight he had would kind of get us rolling. It’s going to be big shoes to fill, no doubt.”

With the exception of a 58-50 overtime win over Metter, all of the wins have come by double figures while the two losses were by a total of four points, both to teams ranked in preseason: 54-51 at No. 8 Woodville Tompkins (11-1) and 51-50 last Friday night at home against Portal (8-0) which is No. 1 in Class A-DII.

Like most small schools, Bryan County has several players who play both football and basketball. Normally there is no overlap but this season was an exception as the football team wound up playing 14 games in advancing to the Final Four of the state playoffs.

As a result, Anderson had to make some changes in his practice routine and early season scheduling.

“We were practicing with three varsity players and doing some individual stuff,” Anderson said. “This is a situation I haven’t been in before but it’s awesome for our school. We were supposed to have played over Thanksgiving but we rescheduled some dates.”

Most notable among those basketball players who were tied up with football were leading scorer Elijah Mincey who despite playing football for the first time as a junior wound up making the all-region team as a defensive back.

As a result, the Redskins’ opening game was a region game at Woodville and Anderson was unsure of what to expect.

“Yeah, I think so,” Anderson said when asked if he was surprised by the closeness of the game. “Our idea going into it was we couldn’t play the football guys with one day of practice.”

“A game at Woodville is going to be really tough anyway but we just kept hanging around,” Anderson said. “It was 22-22 at the half. They went up by 10 in the third quarter and I was like, ‘Well, maybe this is it,’ but we hit a couple of threes that got us back in it and we tied it.”

In battling back, it told him, Anderson said, “a lot” about his team which then won three straight before facing Portal.

“It showed their fight and resilience,” Anderson said. “A loss is never good but it was a moral (loss) like ‘We have something,’ if that makes sense.”

“We’re not in basketball shape but we were still able to win three in a row. We found a way to win even though we were behind in practice and conditioning.”

Mincey, who has more than 1,000 points in two seasons, is off to a stellar start as he is averaging 15 points per game and Justin Beck, who is an excellent long-range shooter, is averaging 11 points per game.

With the exception of Mincey, the Redskins have an all-new starting lineup in Chris Winfree, Gerbrae’vion Collins, Beck and Mike Smith. Key reserves include Lyric Daniels, Jayden Odum and E’Savian Rivera.

Against Portal the Redskins had a 48-43 lead with 5:28 to play only for the Panthers to rally for a 50-48 lead. Collins tied it at 50 before the Panthers’ Elijah Coleman made one of two free throws with three seconds left to win it.

“I thought we rose to the occasion,” Anderson said. “We knew what kind of effort it was going to take and we had a chance to win it. We got some good minutes from guys who hadn’t played before. They’re a very good team, very athletic, and all seniors.”

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