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Union Grove hopes to counter Mount Zion's size in rematch

Photo by Gabriel Stovall
Mount Zion's Cody Simmons (left) and J.R. Holder stand 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 respectively, and could create some major size mismatches for Union Grove in Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. game at Mount Zion.

Photo by Gabriel Stovall Mount Zion's Cody Simmons (left) and J.R. Holder stand 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 respectively, and could create some major size mismatches for Union Grove in Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. game at Mount Zion.

JONESBORO — It’s not enough that Mount Zion is having its best season in 12 years.

The win-loss column stats alone aren’t where it’s at for the Bulldogs (12-5). Bulldogs coach Maurice Triche wants to see Mount Zion turn into a team that learns how to habitually close out and win games.

Games like last Friday when Mount Zion dropped a Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A contest to Drew, who is now a game ahead in the regular-season region title race.

“I keep saying that this is a process for these guys,” Triche said. “Winning is still new to them.”

To make it become old hat, Triche said, it’s going to take the Bulldogs being able to excel in the process.

“I remind them every day, I sacrifice my time,” Triche said. “I get here at 7:30 a.m. and hang out with them until 8:30 at night, sometimes later because I want them to be successful as a student. I remind them about these ways of discipline. It was in college when I learned how to discipline myself. I want these kids to know it now.”

That’s why Saturday’s bounce back win against Union Grove was, no doubt, pleasing to Triche. Mount Zion’s 61-51 defeat of the third place Wolverines helped them stay within one game behind the Titans for first place.

The Bulldogs will get to practice the art of consistent winning again when it hosts Union Grove Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. It will be the teams’ second game with each other in the last 72 hours, and it will give Union Grove (12-8, 5-5) an opportunity for a little rebounding of its own.

Coach Russ Atkins’ bunch has made marked improvement from last year’s 1-20 season. With manageable games against Mundy’s Mill and two win Forest Park, the Wolverines — two games behind Mount Zion — still have an outside shot at a regular season crown. They will need some help. And that help can begin Tuesday if Union Grove can best Mount Zion in the rematch.

Union Grove will a size disadvantage as its tallest player is 6-foot-2 junior Jay Shorts, who had 16 points in the Wolverines’ loss to Ola on Friday.

Meanwhile, Mount Zion will trot out eight players who are as tall or taller, including 6-foot-6 high scoring senior J.R. Holder, and 6-foot-5 Carnilious Simmons.

Simmons has been a double-double machine for the Bulldogs in a season where an improved supporting cast has taken much of the pressure off of Holder to do it all.

Union Grove hasn’t had 12 wins this far into the season since its 2010-11 state tournament campaign that ended in a 79-55 loss to Hardaway. Atkins’ team will need a big night from Shorts and senior point guard and scoring leader Sean Williams who is averaging 16.4 per game.