With all the talent and all the depth on each team over the years, no group has been able to get the Trojans back to the state title game.
This year, Cotton and the Trojans (27-5) find themselves at the end of the road with a chance to win it all on Friday when they take on the Velma Jackson High School Falcons at 2:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. East Side’s last appearance for a boys’ basketball team in a state title game was in 1995 when they lost to Rosa Fort 67-61 in the 3A State Title game.
Despite not being in this situation for 19 years and compounded with the fact that they are facing the defending 3A State Champs, Cotton will be the first one to tell you that things are different.
“This is a tough group,” Cotton said. “We don’t have the depth that we’ve had in years past, but these players have accepted their roles a little bit better and they are good defensively.”
Another thing that has made this group different for Cotton is the never say die attitude that infects the entire team.
“Their mentality is one that I admire. I’ve seen some times this season where they could have given up, but didn’t. They are a tough group of guys and their overall team chemistry is off the charts,” Cotton added.
The Trojans have been on a fire of late winning their last nine ball games, which included a Region 3-3A championship and a North Half Championship.
Not to be outdone, Velma Jackson has won its last 22 games and is currently sitting high at 33-2.
The standouts that have led the way are Quinndary Weatherspoon (16.7 ppg., 5.7 rpg.), Kendarius Smith (14.6 ppg.) and Moses Greenwood (13.0 ppg., 5.5 rpg.).
“Velma Jackson is a very good basketball team,” Cotton said. “They are very patient and methodical. They are well coached and have some really good athletes. They run a slow offense and take what the defense gives them.”
For the Trojans Jon Paul Davis has been the man on the court by averaging 17.1 points per game, 9.7 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per contest. Charles Jackson has been money for the Trojans all season by averaging 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, while Perry Henry (7.9 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 2.3 apg.) Bobby Jones (6.8 ppg., 3.9 rpg.) and Clarence Stewart (6.7 ppg.) have all been major contributors to East Side’s success.
“I think we have overall good size inside and with our guards,” Cotton said. “I think we can match them on the boards. We are going to have to execute and all year long we have executed very well. They (Velma Jackson) play a really good 2-3 zone so we are going to have to do some things to attack that.”
The Trojans will also look to Barron Burns and Leon Green off the bench to provide some much needed spark and toughness.