By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Nic Buford was back in his old stomping grounds Saturday with his new team.
The second year Munford Cougars head coach traveled back to the William Osteen Gymnasium to challenge the Southwind Jaguars. The first varsity contest of the 2021 William Osteen Invitational gave the former Millington Lady Trojan head coach and Trojan assistant coach a chance to put his 2021-22 Cougar squad on center stage.
The two main conductors of the Munford symphony are underclassmen JaDyn Lee and Malik Curry. The point guard duo took turns leading the Cougar offense, feeding teammates like Michael Lee, Levi Poindexter, Jamarius Ealy, Murray Norman, Cam Smith and Jordan Bell leading to a 70-57 win over the Jaguars.
“We’re just so young at the one,” Buford noted. “And it shows during pressure situations and things like that. They have grown every game. We know what to fix. It’s just this early in the year we’re thinking about growth.
I’ve seen that we have grown from game to game,” he continued. “Scoringwise we did not meet our goal in this one. We missed it by three or four points, our norm. But we cranked it up in different areas we needed to like rebounding. In the third quarter we won the rebound battle. We’re growing and we just need to put it all together.”
With a goal of about 75 points a contest, the Cougars hit the 70 mark and kept the youthful Southwind team under control. Munford paced itself to an 11-4 advantage after one quarter.
When JaDyn Lee made a free throw early in the second period, the Cougars were ahead 21-9. Murray had the hot hand in the second quarter hitting a three-pointer that made the score 24-14.
The Jaguars trimmed the Munford lead to 26-18 when Murray drilled another triple. The Cougars were ahead 33-18 when JaDyn Lee hit a jumper.
To close out the first half, Bell leaped to the rim for a layup and Murray nailed a trey as the buzzer sounded to make the tally 38-20.
Munford was outscored by 7 points by Southwind as the Jaguars turned up the full court pressure. But buckets by Michael Lee and JaDyn Lee at key moments kept Munford in front by double-digits.
The 48-37 Cougar advantage was trimmed to 55-51 as Southwind started the fourth quarter with a 14-7 run. Ealy snatched momentum from the Jaguars with a layup with less than 4 minutes remaining in the game.
Ealy used his athleticism on the next possession to elevate over one of his teammates for a put-back bucket to make the score 59-51.
To close out the Jaguars, Munford senior Levi Poindexter hit a timely three-pointer to make the score 65-53.
Happy with the victory over a traditional Memphis-area power like Southwind, Buford said his younger players took another positive step leaving Millington.
“Continued growth,” Buford noted, “just slowing it down. Not just meaning pace but in your head, slowing down situations and knowing situations. We’ve got to the end of the third quarter and time winding down, here we are getting a steal.
“Instead of slowing down the pace and running that time down to get one good shot, we’re pushing it,” he concluded. “We threw the long ball and turned it over. We gave them an opportunity to get back in. We talk about it all the time, those four or six point swings in the course of a game. If we get rid of maybe five or six of those a game and give ourselves those 10 or 12 points, we will be fine as far as managing the game.”