The Long County Blue Tide boys’ basketball team had a year for the ages during the 2019-2020 season. The team won the region 2-AAA regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the quarterfinals of the AAA state playoffs, something the team had not done since the 2007-08 season. The team will look to repeat that success this year as a long-awaited, but out-of-the-ordinary, season gets ready to tip off.
The 2019-2020 squad was littered with senior talent, including big man Trajan Weatherspoon who won Region 2-AAA Co-Player of the Year last season and three-year starting guard Donovan Sykes. The team will look to replace six seniors, but head coach Reggie Wilkes, who enters his fourth season as coach, is confident that his team will be just fine.
Junior forward Cameryn Johnson averaged 10.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game while the lone returning senior starter, guard Tostadas Pouncey, went for 13.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Wilkes said he expects “several players to move up from last year’s JV and take major roles on the varsity.”
Wilkes highlighted senior Arkavian Clark, juniors Jacob Cooper, Brandon Baird and Davion Henderson and sophomore Jamel Brimlet as key players to watch for this year’s squad. Wilkes is also excited about two transfers the team has added since the summer.
Joshua Valembrum is a 6’3” senior combo guard who transferred in from Vilseck, Germany and Trinity Gray, a 6’4” junior forward, is familiar with Long County as he transferred from Bradwell Institute in Hinesville.
With the team having advanced to the Elite Eight last season and falling just one point short of advancing to the semifinals for the first time in Long County High School history, Wilkes knows the team is going to have some work to do.
“We expect a few growing pains early, but as always we expect to compete for a Region title and have a strong showing in the state tournament,” Wilkes said.
“Growing pains” are certainly likely to happen for the Tide in the early stages of the season, especially with how little preparation the team had during the summer because of the changes the GHSA made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wilkes said that the changes “had a tremendous impact on our team” as it eliminated “30-35 varsity games and around 20 JV games” from their summer schedule.
“This is where we gain a lot of experience and familiarity with our offense and defense,” Wilkes said. “This year that was not possible so we are having to teach a lot of stuff players would normally already know.”
Normally, the basketball team would have at least two weeks to get athletes from the football team re-acclimated to the speed of basketball before the start of the season. However, due to the pandemic, the football regular season was extended to November 20 with the playoffs starting November 27.
Because of this, players like Johnson, Henderson, and junior Dwayne Rowe have not been available to be on the court with the basketball team. With “8-10 players” joining the team when the football season ends, Wilkes said that they have been put in a “time crunch.”
“Our first regular season basketball game is scheduled for November 23. That does not leave a lot of time for teaching and learning,” Wilkes said.
The Blue Tide basketball team will certainly be met with several challenges along the way throughout the 2020-21 season. Another challenge could be the prospect of playing just two home games in the first month and a half of the season and only seven games at their home court in total.
Regardless of the challenges, the team has committed itself to rising above all challenges. In their scrimmage game against Bryan County on November 10, the team cruised to an 87-60 victory. In the game, Valembrun and Pouncey both finished with 17 points, while Gray scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and Baird added 15.
The team will open the regular season as they take part in the Calvary Thanksgiving Classic in Savannah with matchups against Memorial Day November 23 and The Habersham School November 24.
Over the past few years, it seems that the Long County Lady Blue Tide basketball team has just been on the precipice of breaking through and making huge strides to being a competitor in region play. The team hopes that the 2020-2021 season is the year they will finally break out and with an alumnus now running the show, success could be just around the corner.
Dwayne Reviere, who played for the Blue Tide in the 80s and has been an assistant coach with the boys’ team the last two years, took over for Bragg Thompson, who went 8-44 the last two seasons with a core group of young girls.
Most of those young players are now upperclassmen and Reviere seems to be excited for the team’s chances to make a run at a state playoff appearance, something the Lady Tide has not had since 2018. Despite losing Akiara Garland and Breyahn Maddox to graduation and Region 2-AAA First Team selection Ceci Burke to a military transfer, the team should have good group of players to lead them.
"We have six seniors returning year, only one of which was a regular starter (Tiniyah Smith),” Reviere said. “It’s hard to replace three starters of their magnitude, but we have junior Makayla Raimer back, as well as Jada Young, who saw extensive time last year as a freshman.”
Reviere is a gritty coach who focuses heavily on stout defense and being in great conditioned shape, but this is his first head coaching job at the varsity level. Despite this, he feels his assistant coaching experience and the ground laid by Thompson will lead to the team competing this year.
“In my first year, I want our girls basketball program to continue on what Coach Thompson started,” Reviere said. “He did a great job the past two years and I’m fortunate to be a recipient of the hard work he and the returning players committed themselves to.
Another plus for the Lady Tide this year is now having a full staff of Long County alumni as assistant coaches Caela LaRochester and Shelby Mock both return for their third seasons as coaches for the Lady Tide.
With this, Reviere looks forward to the girls just working hard and trying to get better with every game.
“My expectations for this year are that these incredible young ladies, who I have the honor of coaching, will work hard to be the best that they can be,” Reviere said. “At the end of the season, when we look back at the games played, we can know in our hearts that we left it all on the floor.”
In the team’s scrimmage game on Tuesday, November 11 against Bryan County, a perennial power in girls’ basketball, the Lady Tide rolled to a 51-37 victory. In the game, Young led with 20 points and 12 rebounds while senior Rebekah Gordon added 10 points and seven rebounds of her own. Senior Madison Giron had eight points and Raimer added nine.
The Lady Tide will open the regular season on Saturday, November 21 as they travel to Jeff Davis to participate in the annual Hugh McBride Classic. They will face off against Pierce County, a region 1-AAA rival, in a non-region contest and then against Jeff Davis on Monday, November 23.