By Josh Troy
It was a day of awards and recognition on multiple levels for the Class 2A MHSAA boys basketball State Champions Coahoma County Red Panthers Saturday afternoon.
The community parade in the team’s honor beginning at Coahoma County Jr./Sr. High School and concluding at Nosef Park for the celebration was just the beginning. A cookout was prepared for the team and community, the Red Panthers received T-Shirts recognizing their championship and Head Coach Derrick Moore was presented a plaque. All of the events following the parade were at Nosef Park.
Moore has led the Red Panthers to five state championships in seven seasons. He also coaches the girls, has led them to state tournaments and, most recently, a Region 3-2A District Championship in 2022-23. He teaches math when he is not coaching basketball.
Moore’s connection with the Coahoma County School District began as a young boy. He is a 1996 Coahoma County High School graduate and three of his classmates presented him with a plaque.
Classmate Bobby Williams spoke and classmates Dewayne Boone and Samantha Haile were also on hand for the presentation in the Nosef Park gazebo.
“We want to say we’re very proud of you,” said Williams to Moore. “Continue to stay humble. Continue to give back because you make a big impact on the youth. We thank you for everything you’ve done and are continuing to do and allowing God to use you.”
Williams said a lot of kids look up to Moore and read the words on the plaque, “‘A coach will impact more people in one year than average person in a lifetime.’”
Moore expressed gratitude for the plaque.
“Thank you, I’m thankful. I know I’ve been blessed,” he said. “God got his hands on it. None of this is possible without Him. I just thank Him for using me, however he sees fit. I hope he just continues to use me. If it’s winning, then it’s winning. If it’s another manner, then I’ll take that, too, but I know I’m blessed.”
Moore said everything is for the kids.
“If we can stop one person from being in the streets and getting killed, that’s what it’s about,” he said.
Moore said helping kids continue their education in college is what it is all about.
Laura Hopson arranged for the team to get championship shirts with the No. 5 and listing the years of the past five titles.
The Red Panthers won championships in 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2023.
Hopson said she was able to get information about the championships from Moore’s brother, Assistant Coach Daryl Moore.
Hopson said she wanted the shirt to reflect the song “I Got 5 On It,” by Luniz.
“I told him (screen printer) I need a hand with five rings on it saying ‘I Got 5 On It’ and he designed the shirt,” Hopson said.
Assistant Coach Tom Williams named the 2022-23 Red Panthers the “First 48.”
“After losing the first two games, I decided that they were going to kill everybody so I named them First 48 after the TV show,” he said.
First 48 is a show about detectives racing against the clock to find a lead within 48 hours of a homicide.
After being named the First 48, the Red Panthers went on to win their next 32 games en route to a championship.
The First 48 also won a Tournament of Champions for Red Panthers basketball teams. They erased a 12-point deficit to win the championship on Friday.
Senior wing Demarjay Rucker was the tournament’s defensive MVP and senior power forward Kesean Maddox was the MVP.
Former Red Panthers Head Coach Isaiah Peterson, who led the team to back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006, was on hand for the celebration Saturday. Moore was Peterson’s assistant coach for those two championships.
Peterson praised the way the 2022-23 Red Panthers bounced back after starting 0-2.
“You look at the very beginning of the year and you didn’t think they were going anywhere,” Peterson said,
Then, Peterson said the team came together.
“I pull my hat off to Coach Moore because he’s so honest and kind,” he said.
Peterson said, with many athletes coming back, the Red Panthers can continue to win championships.
Tom Williams and Andrea Williams organized the celebration on Saturday.
Andrea Williams said the Red Panthers are $3,000 away from reaching their goal to pay for championship rings. To make a donation for the rings, contact Andrea Williams at (662) 645-7123.