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For Mount Zion, team progress means sacrifice

Photo by Derrick Mahone 
Drew coach Jarrod Davis is hoping that his team’s recent three-game winning streak is indicative of things to come as the Titans matchup with Mount Zion tonight.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Drew coach Jarrod Davis is hoping that his team’s recent three-game winning streak is indicative of things to come as the Titans matchup with Mount Zion tonight.

It was 8:03 p.m., and Maurice Triche was still at Mount Zion High School on Thursday.

He had been there for 12 hours, and it looked as if he had about one more hour to go. But he didn’t mind.

“I remind these kids every day that I sacrifice my time for them,” Triche said. “I get here at 7:30 a.m. and hang out with them until 8:30 at night or sometimes later because I want them to be successful as a student. It’s not only about basketball. It’s really about life.”

But since they were already in the gym.

“We have to shoot 100 free throws tonight before we leave,” Triche said. It’s in an effort to help the Bulldogs — already off to an impressive 12-4 start — become even better.

And for a team that was 4-22 last season, without a playoff berth in 12 years, you’d think 12 wins midway through the season would be cause for satisfaction.

Triche thinks differently.

“I coach like we’re 4-12 instead of 12-4,” he said. “They’re working hard like they’re 4-12 instead of 12-4. That’s what this is all about. Continue to work hard, improve and get better as team.”

That’s why Jacksonville University signee J.R. Holder was still there, even after some of the other players finished their foul shots and trickled out of the gym.

“He’s still here shooting,” Triche said. “Perfecting his game.” Same with sophomore Jason Oliver who asked his coach if he could have some extra time after free throw practice to work on his left hand.

Of course the coach obliged.

“He puts so many minutes on the clock and just runs from one end of the court to the other dribbling with only his left hand and shooting layups with only his left hand,” Triche said. “It just shows these kids are growing, learning and excited.”

Part of that growth curve is learning, not only how to win, but also how to bounce back after a loss.

Like the tough 44-39 setback to Jonesboro Saturday. That loss came on the heels of nearly being upset by a Forest Park team with just two wins this season.

Before that, the Bulldogs had lost back to back games against Greenforest Christian Academy and Henry County.

The mini-slump is one of the reasons for the free throw practice, Triche said.

“We lost those four games, and almost lost to Forest Park, because of our free throw shooting. We averaged over 20 missed free throws in those five games,” he said. “We can’t win like that.”

Mount Zion bounced back well Tuesday in a lopsided win at Ola. Now with key Region 4-AAAAA, Div. B contests against Drew and Union Grove — the last remaining legitimate contenders for a regular season region crown -- the Bulldogs find themselves flying in rarefied air with the ability to control their own destiny.

“We win these two games and we’re in the driver’s seat for a region title,” Triche said.

Drew coach Jarrod Davis knows a little bit about such success. The Titans (7-7, 6-2) are traveling a different path so far than the one that took them to a Class AAA state championship appearance to culminate the 2011-12 season.

The 65-46 setback to a Columbia team which won its third straight state title against the Titans was nothing for Drew to hang its head about.

But Davis, the school’s only head coach in its three seasons of play, lost 11 seniors from that team, and is essentially in rebuilding mode.

However, the Titans have won four of their last five, including three straight. One of those — a 74-62 victory over Union Grove — helped catapult Drew to the region’s top spot.

In other words, the Titans look to be righting the ship.

Meanwhile, Triche and company just want to keep sailing in the direction toward postseason success.

“I tell my coaches to remember that this group is the same one that only won four games last season,” Triche said. “Every team is dangerous. Every game is a test and a reflection of where we are. These are business trips.”