Junior Maleake Kersh emphatically nodded while Bibb County coach Russ Wallace spoke.
Kersh almost looked like he was grooving to a popular song while Wallace talked about the Choctaws and their 43-30 win over Leeds on Monday.
Even when Wallace said, “They probably understand they’d be walking home instead of riding on a bus if they didn’t settle down,” Kersh nodded his approval.
“We all know he’s intense, but he’s a cool dude,” Kersh said. “You have to take the positive out of whatever he says. He just wants us to be better.”
The Choctaws understand another fact: While Thursday’s regional championship will be their school’s first since 1996, it’s nothing new for Wallace.
In his third year at Bibb County, Wallace reached 10 regional finals in 14 seasons as Pickens County’s head coach through 2011. He was an assistant for an 11th.
Wallace’s teams have won four regional titles and two state championships.
Bibb County plays Handley at 3 p.m. Thursday for this year’s Class 4A Central Regional title.
“He has a lot of experience,” senior Rashawn Heard said. “We believe in him. Everything he says, we take.”
That attitude may have been tested last April when Wallace kicked the Choctaws’ best player off the team. Danjel Purifoy transferred to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia and signed with Auburn in November.
Instead, the Choctaws (26-9) are in the regional finals.
“This is uncharted territory for these guys,” Wallace said. “We lost one of the best players in the country. This basketball team deserves every bit of the credit.
“It’s a testament to these guys. They need to be celebrated and built up.”
Artez Stacy had 11 points and Brandon Rutledge 10 for Bibb County on Monday. Jacoby Lockhart’s nine points led Leeds (11-18).
Handley 65, Holt 64
Tyrese Heard scored on a drive with 9 seconds left and deflected a pass at the buzzer to push the Tigers (23-5) over the Ironmen (16-13).
Heard and Reginald Zachery had 16 points each to lead Handley. Joseph Jordan added 11.
Dee Hughes had 40 points on 11-of-17 shooting for Holt. He hit three free throws with 18.6 seconds left to give the Ironmen a one-point lead.