PEMBROKE — When the horn sounded ending a recent Bryan County High win, Jamal Campbell raised both arms near midcourt and faced his boys basketball team with an ear-splitting grin.
No one in the gym could begrudge Campbell the moment nor for his fellow juniors Jordan Flannel, Devontae Bowers, Kam Boggs and Cam Gusman.
They are the holdovers from a Redskins team that was 0-26 their freshman year and endured a 4-14 COVID-impacted season last year. They are the most experienced players on the team this season, as BC has no seniors.
“The thing I remember about that season is a bunch of guys quit and I had to start,” Campbell said. “I was a freshman playing against guys who were 6-2, 6-5 and we got beat by 50 to 70 points in some games.
“It was hard. I mean we lost to everybody. Then last year we only won four games. This year is better than I could have imagined.”
In that 2019-20 season, Bryan County lost 14 games by 30 or more points, four by 70, 71, 71 and 72 as some rival teams didn’t hesitate to pour it on. Opponents outscored BCHS an average of 71 points to 33.
The Redskins now are enjoying a banner season thanks to the play of the 5-foot-9 Campbell at point guard, 5-9 freshman Elijah Mincey and a frontline of 6-0 sophomore Tanner Ennis, Flannel (6-0) and Bowers (6-1).
Bryan County (15-8, 8-2 region) has posted its first winning season in seven years, and with three games remaining it has a legitimate shot at claiming the Region 3-A regular-season championship. A win over Metter at home Friday would ensure it of no worse than a second-place finish and an automatic berth in the GHSA state playoffs.
Maturity and experience along with the additions of Ennis — who played off the bench last year — and Mincey to the starting lineup have the Redskins clicking on all cylinders right now.
“We’ve got good coaching and everyone is working together and pushing one another,” said Campbell when asked about his team’s success. “I’m a leadership guy and I get everybody going. I’m a fun person to be around.”
Mincey leads the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game — his season-high is 40 — but it is Campbell who makes it all go. He has the ability to hit the mid-range jumper or drive to the basket where he creates scoring opportunities for either himself or a teammate.
Defensively, he’s the point man on a pressing defense that helps make up for a lack of height with an organized chaos look that forces turnovers leading to easy baskets.
“We’re playing hard, pushing it full throttle,” Campbell said. “We know how long it’s been since we had a winning season here. We talk about it in the locker room.
“Our goal is to keep pushing, to win the region. No one knows who Bryan County is. We want to put our mark up there.”
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Campbell is averaging 14.1 points per game. The 6-foot Ennis is at 10.1 and leads the team in rebounding at 6.8 per game. Bowers is at 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds, Flannel averages 7.3 points and 6-3 freshman Chris Winfree — the team’s tallest player — is averaging 5.4 rebounds per game off the bench.
“Jamal has been a leader for this team,” boys basketball coach Brent Anderson said. “He is a model student-athlete that is here every day and wants to get better. He’s done everything we have asked him to do.
“When our five juniors were freshmen, we really preached to them,” Anderson said. “We told them if they stuck with it, they would be really good down the road.
“These kids could have given up when times were tough, but they are very resilient and I am so proud of them. It is a true example of trusting the process.”
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Bryan County High School boys basketball team wins with Jamal Campbell