Rodney English, the East Hamilton boys’ basketball coach, has resigned.
English had been embroiled in a controversy since confrontations with one of his players, Andrew Williams, and Solomon Williams, the player’s father, following the Hurricanes’ victory over Tyner on Jan. 19.
English had a 76-41 record as East Hamilton and took the Hurricanes to their first TSSAA boys’ state tournament last March where they lost to eventual state champion Memphis East in the quarterfinals.
The team finished 25-11.
Tim Hensley, communications director for the school system, said, “(English) has resigned from his coaching position, but will continue to teach in the system.”
Does that mean English will remain on the faculty at East Hamilton?
“To my knowledge that’s the case,” Hensley said.
English, who was in his fifth season at East Hamilton, had a verbal exchange with Andrew Williams in the locker room after the game and the minutes late with the father just outside the locker room.
Gail Chuy, the school’s principal, suspended the basketball coach on Monday and English missed games on Tuesday at Bradley Central and Thursday at Van Buren County.
The Hurricanes defeated Bradley and lost to Van Buren County and on Friday suffered a 53-45 loss at the hands of the visiting Walker Valley Mustangs.
The Canes’ play was ragged, shooting seemed a bit off the mark and the Mustangs dominated the second half by controlling the tempo and frustrating the home team with a barrage of backdoor-cuts for easy layups.
Frankly, they looked distracted.
English told his players of the outcome of a week-long investigation shortly before school let out.
“I was devastated when coach English got in a room and told us what happened,” said senior DaVae Hughley, who saw his first action after sitting out two games due to receiving two technical fouls in the Tyner game. “In tonight’s game, I thought I was focused, but found myself thinking about him a lot. We have a close relationship and I looked up to him like a father.”
When asked for his immediate reaction to English’s decision, senior Justin Dozier, an integral factor in the team’s success over the past two seasons, simply said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Vandrele Wilson, also a senior, propped on a desk courtside after the game and pondered his mental state, knowing he would never play again for the coach he’s had since his freshman year.
“There’s really not much I can say,” he said in a whisper. “It was a lot to take in, especially on game day. I didn’t think it would go this far, but I didn’t have a say in what’s going on. We just have to keep playing basketball.”
With Friday’s setback, the Hurricanes are 19-5 overall and 7-2 in the district and still in second place behind Cleveland’s Blue Raiders.
Walker Valley, famous for its late-season surges just ahead of postseason tournaments, improved to 8-12 and 4-4.
“I thought Walker Valley did a good job with the tempo,” said interim coach Zach Roddenberry as fans filed out of the gymnasium. “That’s usually our plan to dictate the tempo, but we knew it would be tough tonight. It just didn’t work out for us.”
The Hurricanes used an 11-1 run to close the second period for a 27-23 advantage.
Things changed quickly in the third quarter.
The Mustangs altered the contest into half-court action on offense and literally drove the Canes’ batty with driving layup after driving layup. Throw in a 3-pointer here and there and Walker Valley managed to take a 36-34 lead on Jordan Munck’s 24-foot 3 with 1:30 left in the quarter.
Walker Valley was up 38-36 as fourth-quarter action began and senior Kolten Gibson, who finished with 15 points to give him 1,003 in his impressive career, converted a three-point play to push the lead to five points.
That started an avalanche of five straight layups, producing a 49-42 Walker Valley lead with 1:22 remaining in the game. Munck had two drives to the rim, Kolten two and Dustin Bunton, whose brother played at East Hamilton before transferring to Walker Valley, added the fifth.
“That was miscommunication on defense and not getting help on the backside,” said Dozier, who led East Hamilton with 18 points.
East Hamilton pulled to within 43-40, but managed just four points on Dozier’s free throw and a 3 by Hughley over the final 4 minutes and 52 seconds.
“They’re quick and overplay a lot,” Walker Valley coach Bob Williams said of the Hurricanes’ defensive scheme. I like how we executed our game plan. They like to run and we just can’t run with them. We can play slow and they don’t like that.”
Munck and Zeke Westfield each scored 13 points for the Mustangs.
Hughley finished with 12 points, nine coming in the second half when the Canes were trying to stay close.
East Hamilton girls 52, Walker Valley 43: The Lady Hurricanes and Lady Mustangs locked up in a hardwood battle for three full quarters and went into the final period tied at 49-49.
The Lady Canes’ Madison Hayes and Maleiah Moon sandwiched 3-pointers around one by the Lady Mustangs’ Laney Harris for a 43-40 advantage. Keiyanna Suttles then picked up a steal near mid-court and drove for a layup, extending the lead to 45-40.
East Hamilton (21-3, 5-3) outscored the Lady Mustangs 7-3 down the stretch to pull out the victory. Walker Valley failed to score over the final 4 minutes and 45 seconds.
Madison Hayes powered the Lady Canes’ offense with 19 points and DeZah Lacy added 11 points that included nine in the first half.
Lauren Lady had 12 points and Haley Jones 10 for Walker Valley (12-8, 4-5).
Walker Valley 12 11 15 15 – 53
East Hamilton 17 10 9 9 – 45
Walker Valley (53) – Jordan Munck 13, Zeke Westfield 13, Kolten Gibson 15, Davis, Duprey 3, Cooper, Bunton 6, B. Gibson.
East Hamilton (45) – Wilson 6, Montgomery 4, Pasley, DaVae Hughley 12, S. Randolph 3, Justin Dozier 18, Johnson 2, Schramm.
3-Point Goals – Walker Valley 5 (K. Gibson 3, Munck 1, Duprey 1), East Hamilton 5 (Dozier 2, Wilson 2, Hughley 1).
Walker Valley 10 4 23 6 – 43
East Hamilton 11 15 11 15 – 52
Walker Valley (43) – Nipper, Davis 6, Clark 9, Kile, Anderson 6, Lauren Lay 12, Haley Jones 10.
East Hamilton (52) – Moon 5, DeZah Lacy 11, Suttles 4, Madison Hayes 19, Zeh 6, Abernathy, Laboo 7.
3-Point Goals – Walker Valley 6 (Clark 3, Davis 2, Lay 1), East Hamilton 4 (Moon 1, Lacy 1, Hayes 1, Zeh 1).
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)