In a region with last season’s Class AAAAA runner-up Allatoona, as well as well as South Paulding, the New Manchester boys basketball team looks to match and exceed those accomplishments this year.
The thought of going that far in the playoffs has consumed the Jaguars in everything they do, from practices to games.
“We always put emphasis on going to Macon and winning the state championship,” senior forward/center Aaron Reddick said.
So far, so good for the Jaguars who play at Chapel Hill tonight. New Manchester is currently third in Region 5-AAAAA with an 8-2 region record, right behind Allatoona and South Paulding.
“Our goals are set high,” New Manchester coach James Bailey said. “I think we’re on pace to accomplish our goals. We just got to stay focus and fine-tune little things.”
The Jaguars are emphasizing execution and playing as a team as their motto this year is “family.”
“We’re more of a team,” junior guard Clinton Bentley III said. “People are closer. […] We’re prepared more for bigger games. Earlier on we prepared to win. We worked hard for it. Coach Bailey prepared us and our players bought in to it.”
Bailey agrees and gives a lot of credit to his team’s subs.
“It’s been a whole team effort,” he said. “We’ve had some games that our bench really won the game for us. They came in and picked up the slack.”
Bailey has used multiple rotations this year, but Randall Quarles, Kemontre Johns, Malik Ogletree, DeCharri Taylor, and Momodou Singhateh have been players New Manchester has relied on off of its bench.
“Those five guys, I bring them in pretty much as a set,” Bailey said. “Now we just had an additional [player], Freddie Foster. He helps out on the defensive end too and provides a little leadership. I have a very deep bench. I trust all of them. They trust each other.”
New Manchester believes its bench is what separates its team from the other clubs in the region.
“If we get tired we know that we’ll have somebody who will go into the game and work just as hard as we did and be successful on the court,” Reddick said.
The depth the bench provides is invaluable, but their defensive mentality is just as important.
“They understand that I am a defensive minded coach so when they turn up the defense, we find ourselves controlling the momentum of the game,” Bailey said. “That right there really determines how we play. When they’re playing strong defensively, we’re a real tough team.”
The Jaguar starters notice that as well.
“Our bench brings the defensive intensity,” Bentley said. “We put the bench in when we need stops.”
New Manchester’s two losses in the region were to Allatoona and South Paulding. Bailey is impressed with Allatoona’s discipline and the system its coach, Markus Hood, has implemented. He equates the Buccaneers’ balanced scoring to that of his Jaguars.
New Manchester scored just 47 points in its 11-point loss to the Buccaneers and that stood out to Bentley III.
“We can’t play to their tempo,” he said. “They like to play slow and break you down. We got to play fast against them [and] get a lot of transition buckets.”
Looking ahead Bailey wants to see complete games from the Jaguars, whether it is versus Allatoona or anyone else.
“For the rest of the season, if we play a full four quarters of New Manchester Jaguars’ basketball we will make it to state, and that’s the bottom line,” he said.