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Enterprise State basketball players JaJuan Hayes (left) and Gwen Mitchell talk about the season with coach Jeremaine Williams on Wednesday during the JUCO Spring Media Day hosted by Encore Sports Medicine at Shane's Rib Shack in Enterprise.

Enterprise State has begun conference play with one goal in mind — to be peaking in late February.

“The hottest teams in Alabama at the end of the season are usually the ones that make it through — not necessarily the teams with the best records,” ESCC men’s and women’s head coach Jeremaine Williams said Wednesday during the local JUCO Spring Media Day.

Conference play has just begun. The Weevil men played Thursday night at home against Coastal Alabama-East, and the men and women both play at home Saturday against Chattahoochee Valley. The women’s game starts at 2 p.m. and the men play at 4.

“This time of the year, conference play is really tough,” Williams said. “But it always boils down to the hottest team between February and March. We’ve got to keep playing hard. I’m proud of the way the kids have played through adversity we have had this year, on and off the court. It’s going to be a challenge.”

He was encouraged that the men’s team edged LBW earlier this week, while the women’s were short-handed and lost.

“We played LBW the other night, which was a great defensive team. They defend very well,” Williams said. “The guys pulled out a buzzer beater (66-64), but the ladies lost. We’ll get everybody back this week and bounce back.”

Williams said he’s seeing progress from the men (5-9, 1-1 conference).

“The guys are starting to catch on and starting to peak a little bit,” the coach said. “Early in the year I said we’d be a late-peaking team. They’re start to pick it up now. Still working hard, still trying to understand certain spots on the floor on offense. But they’re starting to get better.

“The girls, we’re just trying to be consistent defensively. We really defend very well off the ball and on the ball. We’ve got to continue to do that when we some more bodies back.”

The Weevil women are 6-6 overall, 0-2 in the conference.

Two freshmen from Enterprise — JaJuan Hayes and Gwen Mitchell — have both made key contributions this season, Williams said.

He said Mitchell’s offense has gotten better even as her number of shots has decreased. The coach said Hayes plays different roles for the Weevils.

“JaJuan is one that has stepped up,” Williams said. “He led us against Chipola with 24. He’s played different roles for us. He’ll rebound, play a guard spot. JaJuan being a freshman, he’s doing a great job every night doing whatever I ask him to do.”

Hayes called this season “a learning experience.”

“I just want to help my team in whatever way I can to win every night. That’s my goal,” he said.

Mitchell said it is a step up from high school to college.

“The speed’s a lot faster,” she said. “We have a shot clock. You have to catch on a lot quicker.”

Hayes agreed that the speed is a huge difference.

“In college, everybody’s fast, everybody’s athletic,” he said. “In high school, you can kind of get by. But everybody’s moving just as fast if not faster as you are in college.”

Williams said both teams want to make it to the tournament.

“If we make it to the tournament we have a chance to win it,” the coach said. “That’s our main goal — to win as many games as we can to get to tournament play.”

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