Moore leads Hornets to state championshipPublished 6:45pm Saturday, March 15, 2014
After leading his Hornets to the school’s first ever state basketball championship, Dallas County head coach Willie Moore is the Times-Journal’s 2013-2014 Coach of the Year.
Moore led the Hornets to a 29-3 record this season and a 51-48 win in the Class 4A state championship over J.O. Johnson.
“To me personally, it is quite an accomplishment as a coach but it says more about the success we had as a team,” Moore said.
Moore, who serves as athletic director for Dallas County High School, had to dive into softball practices right after the basketball season concluded, so he says the championship hasn’t really sunk in yet and might not for quite a while.
“It almost feels like a dream,” Moore said. “I keep asking my wife to pinch me. I think I’m just going to wake up and it is all going to be a dream.”
Luckily for Moore, it was all real but it wasn’t an easy climb to the top.
“This team has been different than all the teams I’ve had in the past,” Moore said. “We dealt with a lot of adversity this year. The kids on this team were really resilient and really, really tough and I guess that’s why it almost feels surreal to me.”
The Hornets lost one of their senior leaders in a game early in the season, when guard B. J. Leshore tore his Achilles tendon. Leshore’s injury seemed to set off an entire season of ups and downs for the Hornets, who saw forward William Lee sit with two different injuries down the stretch.
“After we lost Leshore, I thought we would be lucky to be able to get to a regional but going beyond that I didn’t really think was a possibility,” Moore said. “But low and behold, we had some guys step up like we needed them to do and slowly but surely we started to win some games without B.J. and when William got hurt we were able to win every game without him.”
The Hornets only had seven players on their varsity roster to begin the season and dealt with depth issues the entire season.
“We were playing seven players to start with and that was an adverse situation because we didn’t have an opportunity to do 5-on-5 or activities like most teams get to scrimmage,” Moore said.
For the Hornets to practice man-to-man defense with only seven guys, Moore put a piece of tape in the lane to show his players where they should be.
“Sometimes when you have a team win a championship you think they are just going to have talent from top to bottom,” Moore said. “We were just msising that something and what “it” is, this team had “it”.”
Moore said unlike many of his other talented teams at Dallas County and at Bibb County High School, his team couldn’t rely on being faster, bigger or stronger than their competition. Instead, the Hornets just had to play harder.
“They really did the little things from a fundamental standpoint that you have to do to give yourself a chance to win,” Moore said.
After the Hornets lost to Wilcox Central in the Dallas County Classic tournament at Wallace Community College Selma right before Christmas, Moore said that his team “had the best player but not the best team.” From that point on, the team did not lose again, running the table all the way to Birmingham.
The championship was Moore’s first as a coach.