By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Millington Trojans Head Coach Jewell Gates was facing former player, assistant coach and friend Friday night.
When Munford Cougars Head Coach Nic Buford walked into his new home gym he was overwhelmed with emotion to face the man instrumental in his development as a player and coach. Buford credits Gates as one of the driving forces that helped him land his first varsity head coaching job with the Millington Lady Trojans in 2019.
For the first time in their coaching careers, the two men were opponents. The backdrop was the M&M Showdown with Buford’s Cougars earning a 71-52 win.
“I just wanted to get it over to be honest,” Buford said postgame. “It was too much emotion. That’s a gentleman that three of the six coaches involved in this game played for Coach Gates. That’s my mentor. The man has been a role model to me. It was one of those game I honestly just glad to get it over with. I’m happy nonetheless. But happy it’s behind me too.”
While the two head coaches processed the emotional of the contest, Trojan guard Seth Grandberry smacked the Cougars with a three-pointer and layup to give Millington a 5-0 lead.
Javaris Tolton got Munford on the scoreboard with a bucket inside. The Trojans were still hot with Grandberry, D’Camron Haynes and Winston Moore scoring to give Millington a 12-2 lead.
The Cougars were in need of a break and it came courtesy of a Michael Lee triple. The basket seemed to snap Munford out of its early funk. Cougar guard Levi Poindexter joined the scoring mix with a bucket and three-pointer at the buzzer to make the score 14-11 in favor the Trojans heading into the second quarter.
“We knocked down a few shots,” Buford noted. “A couple of other people got comfortable. Once we got to moving the ball and became a little bit more patient, more of those open looks came. That’s what calmed us down.
“And defensively we kind of locked in and played the way we wanted to play,” he added. “You have to give credit to D’Camron Haynes and they call him “Bad News” Chris Barnes. And with Seth, those are three strong guards we played against. I look forward to playing against them again.”
Munford outscored Millington 23-11 in the second quarter to seize control of the game. Poindexter continued his solid shooting with two triples in the period. Shane Cox, future Memphis Tigers Baseball player, displayed his basketball skills adding a three-pointer and later making a steal for a fast-break basket.
Tolton and Lee added points to help Munford build a 34-25 advantage going into the locker room. The Cougars started the third quarter with a Dillon Brooks bucket. Munford went ahead 51-39 when Lee hit another long range shot.
The Cougars were ahead 62-37 by the start of the fourth quarter. Poindexter hit a couple of three-pointers to close out the third frame.
Buford is now 1-0 vs. his mentor. The young head coach collected his emotions and thoughts after the game in his coach’s office. He put the moment into prospective as more M&M Showdowns await down the road.
“For an hour and half to two hours, I like to look at it as two men competing,” he said. “Two men and 30 kids, well six coaches in total, just competing. It’s competition.
“He coached me,” Buford concluded. “He made me a competitor. I hated practicing for him but I love the game. He made it where the game was vacation. And a lot of thing I done playing and coaching under him, you find your self doing them. You go back to the basics. You go back to where you come from.”