It’s hard to imagine how difficult the season has been for Longwood manager Keyon Smothers and his team.
Smothers, a former Washington star, is a young coach in just his second season. He started the year with a team full of players who had never played college basketball. It’s quite a difficult task in Red-South/Central, one of the public League’s superconferences.
The Panthers were promoted to the Reds after the 2019-20 season. Smothers felt he had a team ready to compete with the best teams in town last season. But Chicago International Charter Schools, which operates Longwood, decided it was best not to play basketball during the month-long abbreviated COVID season.
“We had seven seniors last year who moved into college basketball last year,” Smothers said. “It hurts to miss this season. This is why it is difficult to complete the games. We learn on the fly and we fight, trying to figure out what college basketball is like.
You’d never know that Longwood senior Terrance Jones, who opened the Panthers’ 48-43 victory over Perspectives-MSA in the first round of the Public League playoffs on Thursday with 12 points in four minutes, was a first-class college player. year.
“It was tough being new to college this year and playing on so many tough teams,” Jones said. “But I had a lot of people who believed in me, and that helped me. Scoring comes naturally to me. »
Jones finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
“He leads Red-South/Central in scoring, I believe,” Smothers said. “He’s at 23 per game. The kid leads us in all categories, rebounds, goals and assists. Everyone would have noticed last year when he was a junior if we had played.
Longwood (11-7) has a strong backcourt with Jones and fellow senior Da’Qwon Hargrove, who is a dependable ball handler and the heart of the team, according to Smothers.
“He’s the one making us go,” Smothers said. “He’s the one who can calm us down no matter what kind of match he has. We call it “Big Game Qwon”. He’s a leader.
Longwood led by six points at halftime. Outlook-MSA (14-12), who won the White West 9-0 and will play in the Rouge next season, cut the deficit to one on Marquise Perry’s layup and bucket with 2:41 to play.
The Panthers went 4 for 8 from the free throw line from there. Probably not good enough to seal the win, but they kept Wolves from scoring again.
“We had a lot of growing pains,” Smothers said. “A new group just doesn’t understand it without going through it. But we have a big shot in the state playoffs as a Class 2A team. As long as we play our game. We’ll go as far as Terrence Jones takes us.
Perry led Perspectives-MSA with 12 points, and Darrion Mason added 10 points and four rebounds.
“We just fell apart a bit at the end,” Wolves manager Waybon McConnell said. “Just turnovers and mental errors in stride. But it was valuable for the guys coming back the next year just to see it.
Longwood will face winner Mather-Clark in the second round on Friday.
Watch the last minute from Perspectives-MSA in Longwood: