Lovejoy coach Rick Francis says that “last season’s shortcomings” of missing the state tournament has not been the focus of this season’s team. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — Lovejoy coach Rick Francis admits the season is still young, but he sort of likes what he is seeing in his boys basketball team.
After last weekend’s action, the Wildcats are sporting a 5-0 record overall and 3-0 mark in Region 2-AAAAAA, heading into the holiday break.
What has been really impressive about the record is that no starters returned from last season’s team. The Wildcats were 16-9 last season, but lost in the first round of the Region 2-AAAAAA Tournament to eventual region champion Druid Hills.
Lovejoy ended the season on a two-game losing streak after winning its previous seven games.
But Francis said the last season is in the past.
“These guys are not focused on last year’s shortcoming,” Francis said. “Their focus has been clearly on getting better. It is their time. We have zero starters from last year. Everybody starting this year did not play significant minutes last year.”
While this is a new lineup, the players are using last season for some motivation.
“We got a better chance of being better this season,” Lovejoy senior guard DeAndre Mathis said. “I think this team is working hard. We are definitely motivated by what happened last season. We think about last year, and we want to compete.”
The Wildcats started the season with wins over Newton, Rockdale and Morrow, which were all region games.
Lovejoy is averaging 64 points per game and have three players averaging double figures. Mathis is the team’s leading scorer with a 15.2 average while Marlon Currington is averaging 11.8 points and Jahir Sabeza is averaging 10.8 points per game.
In five games, the team has a combined 42 blocks and 39 steals, but what concerns Francis is the team total of 81 turnovers.
“We have got to play a lot better in all areas,” Francis said. “We give up a lot of hustle plays. We have got to take care of the ball better. We have got to get more consistent in our offensive sets. We haven’t gotten a lot of practice time in on the offense. We do a good job defensively, and I see the offense coming.”
Francis said the team’s undefeated season is encouraging as the players get a better grasp of the system.
“I’m extremely pleased with the record,” Francis said. “I know it is the beginning of the season. It will take a while for us to really improve, but the guys are putting forth the effort.”
The players say they have made a concentrated effort to play well this season.
“We are very determined to get to the playoffs,” Sabeza said. “We have some unfinished business to take care of this season. Our season ended way too short last year. We are playing with a lot of confidence. We know we have to step it up, if we want to win the region, and go far in the state playoffs.”