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Pike County junior high team finishes 7-1

Sports Editor

Pike County assistant football coach Richard "Buck" Shaw has been around talent all of his life.

After all, he’s from Abbeville, home to former Auburn star Chris Porter.

A little under an hour away, across the state line, is Cuthbert, Ga., home of Randolph-Clay High School. Shaw coached there as well and was able to watch athletes like 1999 USA Today Player of the Year Donnell Harvey and current Troy State point guard Robert Rushing emerge into college prospects by their senior seasons.

Along the way Shaw, who was an All-American football player at Tuskeegee University in the early 70s, has known pro football players like Jacquez Green (Tampa Bay), Cincinnati Reds’ stars Johnny Bench and Willie Greene, as well as current Atlanta Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones.

Shaw, himself, played two years of professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Right now Shaw is helping lay the foundation for the future success of the Pike County basketball program.

Coaching an undersized group of seventh and eighth graders, Shaw played to the team’s strength, (good ball handling skills), and watched the junior high Bulldogs finish the 2001 season with a 7-1 record.

The only loss came at the end of the year against Shaw’s home town Abbeville Yellow Jackets, 40-25.

But it wasn’t a similar junior high school squad that beat Pike County.

It was the Jackets’ B-team, of which the majority were tenth graders.

"He got after us pretty good that night," said Shaw about his friend, Abbeville head coach Moses Knight.

The Bulldogs dominated most of their competition during the season, beating Banks Junior High twice, 90-12 and 45-29. They also knocked off Opp two times (47-28, 59-25), and cross-county rival Charles Henderson in a close contest 42-39.

Greenville Middle School was Pike County’s biggest challenge. The Tigers were just too tall on the inside for the Bulldogs to match-up well.

So Shaw slowed the ball game down.

"Our scoring was dictated by the talent we were playing," said Shaw. "Greenville was a lot larger then us and we couldn’t jump. Sometimes you just have to adjust your game plan, according to the skills of your players. We didn’t have any height, but we had good ball handlers."

Shaw utilized a motion offense during the season, spreading his players out on the court where they could eat the clock and get a few uncontested shots at the basket.

"If someone were playing man-to-man (defense), it would eat them up," said Shaw. "It just breaks down a man defense when you play motion."

The philosophy payed off against Greenville. Shaw’s Bulldogs made every shot count, winning the first game 18-17 and the second 19-16.

The Pike County Junior High Bulldogs were led by Jeremy Foster (10 ppg) and Alonzo Foster (5 ppg). Thad Rogers, Moses Griffin and Rodney Lee were the other starters. All five players are eighth graders, but Shaw said he received good contributions from his seventh grade bench as well.

"We had a lot of contributions from the bench," he said. "Not having much height and having to rebound and score, often times our first five ran into foul trouble. Some of our players on the bench actually ended up scoring more during the season then some of our starters. Our seventh graders got a lot of playing time and they came in to help us out."

Shaw believes a majority of this squad will be able to compete at the varsity level in a few years.

"This group right here, if they stay together and gell together, this will be a great B-team in a couple of years," said Shaw. "I believe Coach (Danny) Suber is getting a good foundation for the program as a whole."