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Johnsonville High School

Johnsonville boys having bounce back season

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Johnsonville—Last season was a struggle, to say the least, for the Johnsonville boys’ basketball team. The Flashes went 1-11 in conference play and won just five games all year. However, head coach Harris Avant made some changes that seem to have righted the ship so far.

“Going and being a part of the North-South game last year and being around some other coaches and seeing other things, that has definitely helped me change some things in my own practices,” Avant said.

Johnsonville has gotten off to a strong start to 2017-18, going 5-2 in its first seven games. They’ve already matched their win total from last year, and earned a 71-66 overtime victory over Latta in the region opener.

“The biggest difference is knowing that I’ve got 10 guys that can go in at any given time,” Avant said. “Last year I did not rotate as many guys in and out. We’ve got five seniors, but that doesn’t mean they will play more than the underclassmen.

“Being able to rotate so many in has kept them fresh. They’re not staying on the court too long and getting tired. That depth coming off the bench has been the biggest advantage.”

Leading the way for the Flashes this season is junior forward Tyrek Langley, who has averaged 10 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

“I got him as a freshman and he had never played middle school basketball. I started training and teaching him, and it was a struggle for him at first, but he’s learned a lot. I’ve been very pleased. He’s doing well,” Avant said. “I’d like to see him get to 20-plus points and double-digit rebounds every game (before he graduates).”

Joining him in the lineup is senior point guard Malik Washington, who is scoring 7.1 points, dishing out 5.4 assists and recording 2.4 assists each night.

“I wish he was more vocal on the court, but he has done a good job with leadership,” Avant said.

Outside of Langley and Washington, any of seven other guys could find their way into the starting lineup. Seniors Wendell Shuford (7.9 points, 2.3 steals) and Sammy Black (5.4 points, 5.6 rebounds) share time at the center position, and Octavius Williams and Khejuan Cooper compete at the shooting guard spot.

Sophomore Isaiah Brown (8.7 points, 2.8 steals) and senior Jakob Marlowe both see action at small forward while freshman Quez Lewis is the only other point guard on the roster. Freshman guard Tyraun Chandler and junior center Antoine Graham also hear their numbers called.

Johnsonville would have even more options off its bench, but injuries have been an issue. Junior forward Devonte Mack is out for the season with an injury suffered during football season, and small forward Savion Graves was averaging seven points in his first three games before fracturing his wrist in practice.

The Flashes have a tough road ahead as conference play heats up. Carvers Bay, Kingstree and Marion are the favorites, but Mullins, Latta and Andrews won’t be walkovers either.

“We’re getting into the meat of our season and we’ve got two teams in our region that’s in the top 10 in 2A basketball,” Avant said. “That’s what we talk about in the locker room. We know how difficult it’s going to be and we don’t want to be a team that’s left out (of the playoffs). We’re going to have to fight every game.”

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