A year ago the Bryan County boys basketball team was riding high.
A team with no seniors sparked by junior point guard Jamal Campbell and freshman scoring sensation Elijah Mincey came out of the starting blocks fast and never looked back as it went on to win 20 games and make the Class A Public state playoffs.
It was Bryan County’s first winning record since 2015 – it had gone 4-65 the preceding three seasons – and first playoff appearance since 2016.
With everyone returning and a much-improved bench giving Coach Brent Anderson depth which he didn’t have last season it looked as if the Redskins were in for another banner year.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
After Tuesday’s win over Pinewood Christian the Redskins were 3-8 on the season, one more loss than they had all of last season, and 2-2 in a reconfigured Region 3A-D1.
Two major factors have contributed to the slow start: a much more difficult schedule and a team learning to deal with success and expectations.
Throw in several players getting a late start because the football team reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2015 and it’s a combination for a rough start.
But all is not doom and gloom as region play begins to heat up, an upbeat Campbell said.
“Yes, we’ve started slow,” Campbell acknowledged. “We’ve had some issues. We got some egos in the way early. Everybody’s head got big because of the winning season last year.
“But we’re getting back together and I feel like we’re still going to have a similar outcome and we can win about 20 games,” Campbell said. “We’re doing a better job of sharing the ball, swinging the ball around, taking good shots and playing good defense. We’re starting to get our chemistry back.
“The schedule has made a difference, too. We’ve played some bigger schools, way bigger schools, plus Woodville-Tompkins and Savannah High are really good. They’re both strong and athletic.”
Woodville, a Final Four team in Class AA last year, and perennial power Savannah High, both dropped down in classification and are making their presence felt. The Blue Jackets are currently ranked No. 9 in the state.
The Redskins have lost to both teams in games which were competitive and winnable. Two other losses of note were to Calvary Day School, ranked No. 7 in Class 3A, and to Portal which is No. 3 in Class A-DII.
The goal, Campbell said, is focus on the region and advance to the playoffs for the second year in a row, something the team last accomplished in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The next four games are all on the road beginning Tuesday night at Memorial Day School (7-1) which beat the Redskins earlier, 65-60, and a team which gives the Redskins major matchup problems.
“We’re not a big team,” Campbell said. “They’ve got a 6-8 exchange student from Jamaica and he’s pretty good.”
That would be Matea Aidretis and he is part of a Matadors roster that includes 7-1 sophomore K.C. Edgeoub and 6-3 Alex Herwig.
“The region games are the most important,” Campbell said. “We’re not worried about the non-region games against the bigger schools. They’re helping us in our region games.”
The Redskins are currently in the third-place in the region behind Woodville (8-6, 4-0) and Savannah (9-3, 2-1) followed by Screven County (4-6, 1-1), Metter (1-6, 1-2) and Claxton (2-0, 0-4).