COCHRAN — Hutchinson, Kan., in March may not sound like a prime destination for a trip to most people. But that’s the goal for every junior college basketball team in the country.
After all, it wouldn’t be for vacation. It would be a work trip.
Hutchinson hosts the junior college national tournament each March with 16 teams vying for the national title, and more than halfway through its season, Middle Georgia College looks like a contender to get there.
The Warriors are 15-2 overall and 3-0 in Region XVII after Saturday’s 73-54 win over Atlanta Metro.
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“We feel good about what we’ve done so far, but our goal is not to have a good record in the middle of the season,” point guard Adam Callaway said. “Our goal is to win the conference and go to the national tournament. That’s what we’re working for.”
The Warriors’ hard work has paid off this season.
They stumbled to a 3-2 start after a loss to Chattahoochee Valley on Nov. 9 but haven’t lost since. The 12-game winning streak included a victory over Chattahoochee Valley just 12 days after the first meeting, and nine of the Warriors’ wins during their current streak have come by double digits.
“When we lost that game to Chattahoochee, that motivated the guys,” head coach Scott Moe said. “We told them if they wanted to get noticed, they’re going to have to win a lot of games and have a good record. That got them going, and they’ve kept working hard.”
The Warriors are certainly getting noticed. In his 10th year with the program, Moe said the last time the Warriors were ranked came in the 2006-2007 season, and he said the team has been ranked just two or three times during his tenure.
The Warriors aren’t ranked this year, but they received votes in the most recent national poll.
“It’s hard to get ranked,” Moe said. “You just have to keep winning games to get noticed.”
The Warriors’ formula to winning games this season has focused on a balanced attack, something that pleases Moe.
“We have a real chemistry with this group,” he said. “Everybody understands their role, and they all have accepted everything we’ve asked them to do. They may have been a big scorer in high school, but they might not be this year. We’re asking them to play defense and rebound or fit the role we need from them, and they’re all doing it.”
The team entered this past week with three of the top six scorers in Region XVII. Cochran’s Carl Hall leads the way with 18.9 points per game, and he ranks in the top 20 in the nation in blocked shots and rebounding. Marcos Knight, a West Laurens product, is next at 18.6 points per game and ranks in the top 15 nationally in steals. And Kori Forge, one of three sophomores on the team, averages 17.9 points after being named to the all-region team last season.
“It’s hard to explain; everybody really likes playing together,” Hall said. “It’s a great group of guys. Everybody hustles and plays hard together, and it’s just a group of unselfish guys working for a goal.”
Again, that goal is to get to Hutchinson, but there are some stops along that path.
The Warriors would like to win the region’s regular-season title and earn the right to host the region tournament. If they could win that tournament, they would head to Hutchinson, something the program hasn’t done since 1980. They have finished second in the region tournament three times during Moe’s time as head coach.
“Hutchinson, obviously, is a goal we set, but the biggest thing is to win the conference and host the tournament,” Moe said. “That’s what we’re focusing on now. If we do that and win that tournament, then we can start thinking about Hutchinson.”