West Lauderdale basketball coach Duran Clark is focused on one of the most overlooked parts of basketball: defense.
"We talked about it, coach Osby and myself, in the offseason," said Clark. "And we decided, 'Hey, we're probably not going to score a lot points so if the other team can't score, then hey... maybe that'll give us a chance.'"
"Everything's about defense. Every drill we run... it's our defensive strategy first," said senior forward Ty Harden. "You don't even have to be able to shoot or dribble as long as you play defense."
"Ninety percent of practice is defense," said junior E.J. Collier. "The rest is probably shooting."
The strategy has worked. West lauderdale has very little depth under the basket, but their tenacious defense has driven them to a 19-2 record.
"We don't have a lot of tall or athletic guys, so I think it speaks a lot to our coach and how coachable we are as a team," said senior guard Zach Shelley.
All the players we spoke to agreed on one thing: This year's team is totally unselfish.
"We had too many people [last year] trying to out-do each other and wouldn't play their role," said Harden. "But this year, everybody accepts their role. Some people score more than others. We accept that. We just want to win."
"If a guy's open, we'll get him the ball," said coach Clark. "So I would say those three things: We like each other, we defend and we're not selfish at all."
With six regular season games remaining, there's no question about the Knights' identity. On Friday, they blew out Noxubee County in Collinsville. On Tuesday, guard Noah Nix sealed a 2-point victory over Caledonia in an unconventional way... a game-winning steal.
"Well, Tuesday night, we was in a nail-biter, but my guys never showed any emotion," said Clark. "They never got frightened. Becuase the last three years, they've been on the floor with Laurel in the district championship. They ready for any situation, you know, whether at home or on the road."