On the morning of Monday, June 20th the Mansfield JR Tigers basketball team headed down to Waldron for a simple basketball camp. By the afternoon of the same day, their opponents loaded up their buses with the wounded and headed home. The JR Tigers didn’t win every game they played, going 2-1 overall, but they made sure that their physicality and aggressiveness forced teams at the camp to earn every step they took on the hardwood floor.
Mansfield started their camp with a showdown against the Mountainburg Dragons. Mountainburg, who doesn’t shy away from being physical, set out to do what they do best and push the Tigers around. The Dragons found out rather quickly though that they’d better rent a bulldozer if that plan to push around the Tigers this upcoming regular season. Ethan Martin and Zander Walters made sure that there would be no easy buckets for Mountainburg in the paint as they went nose to nose with whoever had the ball down low. With little success getting points inside on the Tigers, the Dragons moved outside the perimeter to begin their scoring. Cooper Edwards shut down a few of the outside moves of Mountainburg, but the Dragons were able to still find holes in the Tiger’s defense. Mansfield’s offense was able to keep up with Mountainburg with scores from Traevin Copeland and Jonah Martin, but they couldn’t pull away as the Tigers lost 26-18.
The second game of the Tiger’s schedule was against the Magazine Rattlers. In a turn of events, the Tigers sent none other than Joseph Carter to mid-court for the jump ball. Carter didn’t win the jump, but he definitely won the Tiger’s defense as he got the ball right back on a steal. Hustle was the name of the game and Mansfield knew the game well. With smooth passes and quick feet, the Tigers found sharpshooter Traevin Copeland who knocked down not one, not two, not three, but FOUR, count them, FOUR consecutive three-point shots to give Mansfield a 12-0 early lead on the Rattlers. Mansfield’s solid defense continued as Cooper Edwards and Ethan Martin frustrated the Rattlers with knock-aways and blocks giving the Tigers plenty of turnovers. Carter was the recipient of a pass from one of those steals and pulled off an acrobatic reverse layup on Magazines defense. Magazine would score some points late in the game, but Mansfield was victorious at the buzzer with an 18-10 final score.
The Tigers had one win, one loss, and one more game to go in their day at the Waldron camp. Mansfield’s final opponent was the rough and tumble Ozark Hillbillies. Mansfield’s JR High Coach, Keith Stovall, knew that the Tigers would have to play 100% as a team and battle hard if they were to stand a chance against the high-powered Hillbillies. Almost as quickly as the jump ball was tipped, Jonah Martin stepped back and drilled a three-pointer from downtown which seemed to shock the Hillbilly’s defense. One three-pointer wouldn’t beat Ozark though, so Cooper Edwards thought “why not” and sank a three-pointer of his own. Ethan Martin and Joseph Carter would tack on a pair of board buckets to send Mansfield into the half with a 14-7 lead. The Tigers picked up right where they left off after the short break as they emptied both barrels of offense and defense on the Hillbillies. Ozark’s defense couldn’t cope with the skills of Traevin Copeland as he again swished a pair of back-to-back threes. If the Hillbillies couldn’t cope with Copeland, then there was no way they could “coop” with Cooper Edwards. So, Edwards hit another three-pointer of his own for good measure. Gunner Williams even took aim at Ozark with a three. The teams battled back and forth at an NBA level but it was Mansfield who finally flattened the hills with an Edwards to Ethan Martin shovel pass for a layup to secure the Tiger’s victory at the buzzer, 30-27.
“The boys competed well all day and we saw a lot of growth from last week to this week” said Mansfield Coach Joshua Brown. “It’s only summer, but we beat a pretty good Ozark team to finish out the day. Our guys continue to improve as time goes on. We need to find some depth still. We need that solid 6th, 7th, and 8th guy that we can send in at any time and still be competitive on the court. There’s plenty of raw talent, we have to polish some more up”.
The JR Tigers showed that they can be as physical as anyone in their first game, can hold together for a close win in their second game, and can play toe to toe with some of the best in their third game. This is not just a five-person team with a bunch of benchers either. Multiple players contributed in Monday’s camp, all of whom will get better as the offseason progresses. Best of all, this was merely a camp. With a few more months of practice still ahead of them before their first regular-season tip-off, the JR Tigers are poised for not only wins in 2022 but Championships too.