After 18-year drought, Yantis boys in playoffs in back-to-back seasons

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

Feb. 15, 2008 - YANTIS - After a first-round playoff exit last year following an 18-year absence from postseason play, the Yantis Owls are returning this season behind the play of seniors Cord Burnett, Randy Smith, Zach Wester, Jordan Davis and Carl Jordan.

"It is cool because Yantis had not been to the playoffs in almost 20 years and now we have went back-to-back," Davis said. "I wish we could have gotten a district championship out of the deal. but it has been cool."

The Owls were ousted from the playoffs last year by Bloomburg, 67-56, in bi-district, and Smith said the players weren't mentally prepared.

"I think last year when we went to the playoffs, we got it in our head that we can do this, and it is not going to be very hard and then lost the game," Smith said. "This year, we came out and stepped up our play and we had it in mind for a district championship, but that didn't happen."

Yantis finished District 18-A, Div. I in second place with two losses to the North Hopkins Panthers this year, and Burnett said North Hopkins was a tough team and well-deserving of their undefeated district season.

"It was tough because we were all ready for the game," the senior said. "We probably looked past a couple of games in getting ready for North Hopkins. We didn't get a chance to beat them this year, but I thought we played good in both games."

For Jordan, this is his first season with the Owls following a move from Quitman during the summer. He said playing with his four senior teammates has been an easy transition.

"It has been fun playing with these guys," Jordan said. "This season has had its ups and down,s but other than that it has been fun. It seemed like practices were a little longer over at Quitman. Other than that, I like playing with these guys a lot, and they have accepted me this season."

This season, Wester has dealt with an ankle injury as head coach Larry Tucker has him coming off the bench.

"I have had two set-backs this season with an ankle injury," he said. "I have been there to support the team through thick and thin and pat them on the back whenever they need it."

Burnett summed up his final season best when talking about his four senior teammates and their final year on the court as a unit.

"It has been exciting having your actual senior season this year," he said. "I have been in school with all of these guys except for Carl almost all of my life and it has been fun playing with them. We have almost everybody back except one player, and we were ready this year."

Coach Tucker said having these five seniors on the team played a role in him staying at the school for another year as the Owls head coach.

"If I didn't have them this year, we would not have been in the position that we are in right now," Tucker said. "We made the playoffs for the second year in a row and we got a real shot at winning a playoff game this year.

"These guys have paid the price every game this year and I am proud of them for that. We would not have had a program if I didn't have these seniors. We would not have won 17 games this year without this group of seniors, and without them I would not have stayed another year."

Note: Yantis will face the third-place team out of District 17-A in the bi-district round next Monday or Tuesday night with the site and time to be determined. Bloomburg, McLeod and Avery are currently battling for playoff contention.

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