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By JOEL COLEMAN
When the East Oktibbeha boys basketball squad won the Class A, Region 5 Tournament championship last week, it caught plenty of rival coaches and teams off guard.
The Titans themselves weren't surprised at all.
Despite sporting just a .250 winning percentage (6-18) in the regular season, East Oktibbeha earned three straight victories in French Camp to capture the division's No. 1 seed and as an added bonus, will host Region 6 No. 4 seed Thomastown tonight at 7 p.m. in the opening round of the Class A South playoffs.
"I knew we had a decent team and I knew we could do this if we put it all together," said East Oktibbeha head coach Barnett Robinson. "All the games that we lost this year, we lost by one, we lost by two, we lost by three, five or ten. The games could have been very easily won, but we just didn't finish games.
"In the tournament, we put it all together and we finished them."
Robinson, whose team currently stands at 9-18, hopes his group's impressive late-season run keeps on rolling tonight against an unfamiliar Thomastown team.
"I know they have some good guards and a pretty good guy down low," said Robinson. "Other than that, I don't know a lot about them.
"But our team, we just continue to work at it. We had our rough regular season so they're looking at all this with an 'I'll prove you all wrong' attitude."
If East Oktibbeha can keep its winning streak going tonight, they would face either Sebastopol or Mount Olive on Thursday.
Robinson says the cause of his team's current uprising is based around a number of factors, perhaps most importantly chemistry.
After the departures of key players from last year's team, Robinson believes it simply took some time for his current club to come together.
He's hoping the Titans' renewed vigor results in this Cinderella-like story continuing all the way to the Mississippi Coliseum and a shot at a Class A title.
"We had a new team and it took the guys time to get together and get a feel for each other," said Robinson. "What we did in the regular season, now it doesn't mean anything. Come tournament time, everybody's slate is wiped clean and anybody can be beat."