Jason Hinson has been a head coach in the 39th District for his 16 seasons. So Coach Hinson and his Augusta team know what to expect when it comes to the district tournament.
“The last couple of years we’ve had to play Mason County and gave them all they wanted. Going into the district is what it is. It’s a draw, and you have to be prepared for what you get. We’ll have to be prepared to play St. Pat,” said Coach Hinson.
In 2021, Augusta lost a 95-89 heartbreaker to the Royals. Last year, Augusta took Mason County to the wire again in a 63-52 loss. Both games were in the first round of the 39th District Tournament.
Augusta has a more favorable and more familiar opponent in the draw this year. They will play St. Patrick in the first round of the district, a team they have already beaten twice by a combined 117 points.
Coach Hinson had praise for the opposing coach for St. Patrick, Tony Moore.
“I think the coach has done a great job of improving them and getting them better. I think in 2 or 3 years you’re going to see that improvement. We’re going to prepare for them like anyone else,” said Hinson.
Augusta started off their season well but had some growing pains in the middle. Hinson thinks they are back on track now.
“We started off playing well. I think with any season you just want to get better game to game and improve on the things you need to improve on. I feel like throughout our season we’ve done that pretty well. We went through a rough stretch there. Since then, we’ve learned from those games and have been a little better here lately and playing well against a few decent teams. It’s about getting better going into the district tournament.”
That rough stretch was four games from the last week of January into February. They lost four straight 10th Region games to Harrison, Mason, Bracken, and Scott. In all games they lost by double digits.
“I think in the middle there we struggled defensively and in transition. We had a hard time guarding guys that are quick with the ball. Mason and Bracken did a really good job of that, and I feel like we’ve gotten better with that. We kind of changed our defense scheme some and made some adjustments. With that being said we’ve been able to pull out a couple of close victories and that’s been a big help.”
Augusta will hope to meet the winner of Bracken County and Mason County in the district finals. However, with better results than the regular season. Augusta lost to Bracken County by 25 points twice and lost to Mason County by 19 points.
The district tournament is a fresh start. Last year, Augusta lost to Mason County by 31 points in the regular season and by 11 points in the district finals. In 2021, Augusta made a 15-point turnaround in the district verse Mason County.
Augusta returns a wealth of experience and leadership. The team has also had some players make great gains since the start of the season.
The way Chan Conner has grown in a year’s time. He was he’s been able to come in and provide a spark through his defense, rebounding, and hard work. Keaton Bach has improved in all areas. The leadership of Kylan (Hinson), LJ (Conner), Conner (Snapp), and Will (Kelsch). Just a lot of positives.”
LJ Conner leads the team in scoring, averaging over 18 points per game. Kylan Hinson follows with over 16 points per game and pulls down seven and a half boards. Conner Snapp is next with 15 points per game.
The Panthers will be playing with a short bench due to a few injuries throughout the season. Hinson says this season he has had more injuries than any team he can remember.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries. We lose Noah Nelson to a broken foot. We lose Noland Young to a sprained ankle and almost a broken foot… Conner Snapp getting hurt there against Bracken at halftime. He’s finally getting back to where he’s comfortable and not having a lot of pain.”
Jason Hinson was the coach of the Panthers in 2013 and 2014. Brian Kirk was the coach in during their 2016 run.
After 17 years of the current 39th District alignment, Augusta remains as the only other team to win the tournament.