The Cougars’ record, at 1-7, does not look great on paper.
However, upon closer inspection, Munford is just a few points away from being 7-1.
Munford lost to St. Benedict, Obion County, Haywood and Briarcrest by a combined 14 points and lost to Covington in overtime after trailing by 26 points in the third quarter. The Cougars led Obion County by 13 points in the second quarter.
“It’s crazy,” said first-year head coach Nick Buford, who believes his team could have beaten everybody on its schedule except for Tipton-Rosemark Academy. “It’s a sign of growing pains and the big part is it’s a change of system and a change of pace. They’re getting used to the shots they will see playing this way.”
Previous coach Ryan Ross ran a very deliberate, slow-pace offense. Buford’s style is basically the opposite.
Several players have thrived in the system.
Senior forward Javaris Tolton ranks 20th in the Shelby-Metro area with 15.3 points per game. Senior Shane Cox, who joined the team this season, has had some solid games this year, as have Levi Poindexter and Michael Lee.
Several freshman have seen significant playing time, most notably Murray Norman and Jordan Bell.
“We’re one of those teams where anybody can have the spotlight.
Buford said the team has adjusted pretty well to having a new coach.
“They’re getting used to our way of doing things and we’re getting used to them,” Buford said. “They’re all really good kids and that makes it easier.”
What hasn’t been easy is the uncertainty of scheduling because of COVID-19.
Munford lost to Lausanne on Tuesday and it was their first game in 11 days.
“This is by far the most challenging season I’ve been a part of in my entire coaching career,” Buford said. “They just have to get comfortable, but playing every nine, 10 or 11 days, it’s kind of hard.”
The Lady Cougars have played a very hard schedule so far this season.
Munford has already played University School of Jackson, Greenfield, Covington and Houston, all four of which are perennial state tournament contenders, plus a solid Union City team.
The Lady Cougars lost to three of those fives teams, but beat Union City and very impressively blew out Houston on Dec. 19, 52-35.
It all adds up to a 5-5 record.
“I think, overall, they’re improving every day,” coach Steve Poindexter said. “The main thing is we just have some people with some nagging injuries and trying to stay healthy day to day.”
Freshman starter Hannah Callahan was injured last week and is expected to miss some significant time. Junior Shelby Kendrick recently returned after missing several games with a shoulder injury.
One player who has been healthy is senior point guard Maiya Reed. She scored her 1,000th career point on Dec. 28 vs. Greenfield and is averaging 17 points per game, which ranks third in the Shelby-Metro area.
Poindexter said Reed’s supporting cast, which is largely made up of underclassmen, is getting better. On most days there are two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup.
The Lady Cougars are averaging nearly eight made 3-pointers the last four games.
“For us, that’s pretty good,” Poindexter said. “We are young, but we’re definitely playing better. I think, as a coach, I’m kind of figuring out some things we can do and some things we can’t do and trying to base everything on our strengths. We’re starting to eliminate some of the things we’ve haven’t been very good at.”
Munford returns to action with a road game Friday at Obion County before traveling to Dyer County on Tuesday in the district opener.