Strikers score bronze medal

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 25, 2004

Three days in Huntsville was a revealing time for the Marion MATCH Strikers. The team just hopes it wasn’t too revealing.

The Strikers, consisting of varsity basketball players from Francis Marion High School, got a good look at their upcoming prospects during the Alabama Sports Festival. The event took place June 18-20 in Huntsville, where the Strikers finished third and garnered bronze medals. Class 3A Francis Marion played in the tournament, winning three of four games against Class 6A opponents.

“This was a chance to see and separate the talent we’ll have for the regular season,” coach Woodie Jackson said. “We’re pleased with what we’ve seen so far.”

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In their first game, the Strikers beat Huntsville’s J.O. Johnson High School, 70-55. Junior Devan Dunnican led the Strikers with 17 points, while sophomore Ken Moore dropped in 13 points and senior Dewayne Woods added 12.

“This tournament,” Woods said, “is about what you’ve got in your heart and hard work.”

The Strikers had their best offensive output in their second game of the tournament, a 78-64 beating of Sulligent High School. Woods led the way for the Strikers with 14 points. Brian Moore followed with 11 points and 12 rebounds. A.J. Essex contributed seven points and grabbed six rebounds, and Brentley Wright chipped in seven points.

“We rebounded well the whole tournament,” Jackson said. “We were very aggressive on the boards.”

That aggressiveness helped the Strikers pull out a 43-40 victory over the Oak Mountain High School Oakies. Woods, who scored in double-figures in every game of the tournament, and Kevin Curry led the way for the Strikers with 10 points. Moore scored seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Courtney Sewell chipped in six points and collected 10 rebounds.

The team’s winning ways were halted in the semifinals, a 65-52 loss to the ‘Bama Boys, a team comprised of players from Lee, Butler and East Lawrence high schools.

Curry paced the Strikers with 18 points, followed by Sewell with 13 points and Dunnican with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Despite not winning the gold medal, the Francis Marion High School players are confident that the Rams will have an outstanding 2004-05 season.

“We can be the best,” Woods said. “We’ve got a good chance (of winning the state title). We’ve got the team to do it.”

Dunnican concurred.

“We’ve got to work on our man-to-man defense,” he said. “Once we get that down, we should be unstoppable.

“We’re going to Birmingham,” Dunnican added. “We’re going for that championship. No doubt about it.”

The Rams’ hopes for a state championship, however, were tempered a bit by an injury to Moore, one of the team’s top players.

Moore missed the final game of the tournament when he felt pain in the front part of his lower right leg. The same injury, which remains a mystery to him and his coach, kept Moore out the final two months of last season.

According to Jackson, Moore had surgery Monday in which doctors removed a small section of the bone in his leg. The piece of bone was sent to a clinic to be evaluated.

Jackson said the results could be known as early as today.

The Francis Marion head coach also said Moore could either miss no time or a good part of the regular season, depending on the severity of the injury.

“On a scale from one to 10, we’re a 10 with Brian,” Jackson said. “We’re a seven without him, but he’s one of our best players.”

The Strikers’ summer work is far from over. The team will compete in a team camp to be held July 9-11 at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. During the camp, the Strikers could play as many as 14 games in the three-day period.

Jackson said the tournament might be the perfect opportunity to see what his Rams team could be like this season.

“We’re going to change the offense this year. We have more guys who can score,” he said. “We’re going to play more of a pressure defense, a defense like the Pistons. I just hope we can score a little more.”

MATCH, or Members Acting To Change Humanity, is a non-profit organization devoted to helping the youth of Perry County. The program offers tutoring to high school students preparing for their ACT exams and uses sports as a spark to help young people become more involved within the community.

The Strikers’ best season came in 2002 when they went to the tournament finals and settled for the runner-up spot.