Royal Maxwell will lead his first Mundy’s Mill team into the Class AAAAA playoffs when the Tigers host Evans tonight. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — Mundy’s Mill was in the midst of a three-game winning streak, then the Tigers sustained a loss to Forest Park.
After that game, Mundy’s Mill coach Royal Maxwell discovered that his team was taking the season seriously.
“I saw some players cry after that loss,” Maxwell said. “We had periods in the season where we would win two to three games in a row, and then lose. I saw something different in the team after that Forest Park loss.”
Mundy’s Mill went into the Region 4-AAAAA Tournament with a 11-15 record, but had the No. 2 seed on its side of the subregion. When the final buzzer sounded to end the region tournament, the Tigers emerged as the champions with close wins over Creekside, Whitewater and host McIntosh.
Not bad for a team that came into the region tournament with little momentum while on a two-game slide.
“This region championship is real special,” Maxwell said. “This is the group of kids that I first coached as ninth-graders. When you put a program in place, you like to see some results that validate yourself. You like to see the seeds that you have sowed.”
It was the program’s first region championship and playoff appearance since 2008.
The Tigers will host Evans, the No. 4 seed from Region 2-AAAAA tonight in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
“We are definitely looking forward to this game,” said senior center Jonathan Celestin, a Minnesota football signee. “It has kind of been my job to help provide leadership for the team.”
Last season, Mundy’s Mill lost on a buzzer-beater in the quarterfinal round of the region tournament, preventing them from advancing to state.
“We decided to come in this season and work hard to get to state,” Mundy’s Mill guard Marquis Johnson said.
No player on the roster has any playoff experience. Most players were still in elementary school when the program last reached the state playoffs.
Maxwell said he is not too concerned with the lack of playoff experience because of the makeup of his team. The Tigers are pretty balanced in scoring with no particular standout players.
Mundy’s Mill didn’t put any player on the all-region team, which was selected by the region’s coaches.
“Our team is built on 12-13 guys making a contribution on each night,” Maxwell said. “We have that next man up mentality. You couldn’t tell who is the star on this team. I feel good about this team going into the playoffs because we know if one guy is not on that night, we can go to the next guy.”
The Tigers rely on their defense to generate their offensive points.
“We try to put a lot of pressure on our opponents,” Maxwell said. “As long as we get some energy going on the court, we should be fine.”
“We just need to play our game,” he said. “We need to stick to what got us to this point.”