Bulldogs ready to go to King Cotton

Bulldogs ready to go to King Cotton

After winning a game in the King Cotton Holiday Classic for the first time last year, White Hall is looking for more this season.

The Bulldogs are set to make their third-straight appearance in the boys high school basketball tournament, which will be held Wednesday through Friday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Head coach Josh Hayes said the Bulldogs (7-6) want to win every tournament they enter, and King Cotton is no exception.

“I think we were just happy to get a win last year,” he said. “It was our first win ever. This year, we want to win the tournament. Of course, that’s going to be a tough feat with all of the teams in there, but that’s our goal. That’s our aspiration. We’re not coming there just to compete. We’re not coming there to win one game. We want to make a run if we can.” White Hall made its first appearance in King Cotton two seasons ago but finished 0-3. Last year, the Bulldogs opened tournament play with a 65-64 win against Grissom (Huntsville, Ala.) but dropped their remaining games to Greenforest (Decatur, Ga.) and Silsbee (Texas).

Hayes’ son, Jai’Chaunn, was the hero of the win against Grissom. He scored 30 points, including the game-winning shot with 26 seconds remaining. This year, he said the Bulldogs want to improve upon last year’s performance and make a statement.

“I think we just gotta close games out better,” Jai’Chaunn said. “We had a good chance last year, but with the team we got this year, we’ve jelled. We made some statements already this year, so we’re looking to make more.” White Hall has played a challenging non-conference schedule this year, one that Hayes said may be among the toughest the Bulldogs have ever played. White Hall owns wins against Little Rock Parkview and Watson Chapel, while the losses have come to teams such as North Little Rock, iSchool Lewisville (Texas) and Christian Brothers (Memphis).

Although the coach’s son receives a lot of attention, the Bulldogs are bigger than one player. One of White Hall’s other top players, Jordan Rasberry, said the team’s strength is its offense.

“I think it’s the scoring, because we have a lot of scorers, so people can’t just key in on one person,” Rasberry said. “We just gotta work on our defense.” Hayes said Rasberry and Jacoby Edwards have stepped up their scoring this season, turning White Hall into a “three-headed monster.” The Bulldogs are more of a team this year, which he says is what he has always wanted.

He said over the past two years, teams have targeted Jai’Chaunn Hayes defensively with tactics such as box-and-one or face-guarding him the length of the court. Coach Hayes said that worked for two years, but not this year thanks to Rasberry and Edwards.

“If you do it, we can make you pay for it,” Josh Hayes said. “So teams will come out like that, and you’ll see a quarter or two in, they have to change everything around, which helps us because they’re really going against their game plan. Now we made them adjust to us. It changes the way they guard Jai, the way they guard our entire team. It opens up what we’re really good at, which is driving, kicking and shooting the ball.” Edwards said when people see White Hall play at King Cotton, he wants to show everyone how close the Bulldogs are with one another.

“We family, and we got each other’s backs,” Edwards said. “We know how to play with each other.” White Hall will begin tournament play at 1 p.m. Wednesday against Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.)