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With remade lineup, Attucks back to defend 3A crown

Tigers had to replace nearly 50 points per game

Crispus Attucks won last season’s Class 3A title with a senior starting trio of Nike Sibande - now a freshman starter at Miami (Ohio) - Teyon Scanlan and Alex Cooley, who averaged a combined 46 points per game.

Their departure left some lineup uncertainty entering this year, but through four wins in as many games, the top-ranked Tigers - both old and new - have stepped up, led by seniors Jamal Harris and Derrick Briscoe, and junior transfer Harold Bennett.

“We had some experience, but as far as playing like we have, I wasn’t sure it’d happen this early,” said second-year Attucks coach Chris Hawkins, who is 29-4 at the helm. “Kids are understanding their roles and they’ve played great so far.”

Harris (17.0 points per game), a 6-2 guard and New Orleans commit known for his incredible leaping and dunking ability, has nearly doubled his scoring average from a year ago, thanks in part to tireless gym work.

“We finally got a shooting gun at the school, so he comes in and puts up 500 or 700 shots a day,” Hawkins said. “He’s taken his drive to the basket, ability to hit the open shot, his leadership all to the next level.”                                                                                                                                                                     

Briscoe, a 6-4 wing who averaged 4.8 points last season, is now up to 19.3, along with five rebounds per contest.

“We talked after we won state, that he’d be counted on this year,” Hawkins said. “He’s a player who can play inside-out, so he causes matchup problems for everybody.”

Bennett, a 5-11 point guard who transferred from Southport, has made an immediate impact.

“He’s real smart with the ball, can score it if he wants to, a real welcomed piece,” Hawkins said.

Other key contributors include senior Micah Poole (9.5 ppg), and juniors Jaiquan Edwards (8.0 ppg, team-high 5.8 rpg) and Tyran Lewis (4.3 ppg).

Altogether, it’s a lineup packed with senior and junior talent.

“It’s a group that’s been there, that’s been together and plays well together,” Hawkins said. “It’s also good we’ll have this junior group again next year.”

The Tigers, who love to test their skills against bigger class opposition, get that chance on Saturday when they pay North Central (2-1) a visit. The Panthers won last year’s meeting 75-71.

“We play them at all three levels, so we definitely look forward to the challenge,” Hawkins said. “They were one of four teams to beat us last year, so we want to go in ready to play our way. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

Hawkins said last season’s championship run put a spotlight on what the program and Attucks are all about.

“People want to come here. It’s a great academic school and basketball school,” he said. “We want to get basketball where it was in the 1950s, when they went to the state finals four times and won it twice. We just want to keep it going.”

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