Miller-McCoy going out with a bang in final year _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Rod Walker Miller-McCoy boys basketball coach Roosevelt Joiner and Darrel Jacobs.

Darrell Jacobs, a 6-foot-8 center at Miller-McCoy, had it all figured out.

“I was hoping to graduate and be able to come back and visit my school,” Jacobs said.

Once there, he could perhaps go to the school gym and glance up on the wall and see the district championship banner that he and his teammates clinched Wednesday.

Then they could maybe reminisce about the glory days and exchange stories about the best season in the school’s brief history.

But there will be no banner for the Lions..

“We’ll probably just have to give them T-shirts or something to remember this by,” Miller-McCoy coach Roosevelt Joiner said.

And even if there was a banner, there wouldn’t be a wall to hang it on. The all-boys charter school in eastern New Orleans is shutting down in May after seven years because of problems like failing test scores and disciplinary issues.

That may explain why there was no pile of players yelling and screaming at midcourt Wednesday after the Lions clinched the outright District 10-3A crown with a 68-45 road victory over overmatched Thomas Jefferson.

It was the final regular-season game for Miller-McCoy.

“It’s bittersweet,” Joiner said. “The guys were really starting to feel it on the ride over here. They were talking about this being the last one. They started reminiscing about their ninth-grade year and their 10th-grade year. They are realizing now that we are getting to the finish line.”

The Lions get to play at least one more game. The district title assures them a playoff berth, the school’s first.

“That’s really special,” guard Morris Ash said. “Even if we lose in the first round, we still have achieved something.”

Ash, who knocked down a career-best four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points Wednesday, will suit up for Miller-McCoy at least one more time. Then he will have to head to some other school for his senior season. Ash and seven other underclassmen will have to find somewhere else to play next season. He mentioned Warren Easton as a possibility for him.

“They’re (the underclassmen) all shopping around,” Joiner said. “I’m on the hunt too, sending out résumés.”

Joiner is in his first season at the school, with coaching stops that included two years as head coach at John McDonogh and assistant stops at Sophie B. Wright and Crescent City, where he was last season.

He probably would have stayed put had he known Miller-McCoy would shut down.

He found out the news shortly before the basketball season began.

“Oh, that was hard,” Joiner said. “We didn’t know if the school was going to close in January and they cancel the season or if they would let us finish the school year. The kids didn’t know if they wanted to leave now or stay. I lost some kids that went ahead and transferred out. It really affected us.”

Ash was one of the ones who stuck around.

“It was real tough knowing we weren’t going to come back after this year,” Ash said. “But as a team, well as a family, we made a statement that we have to go out with a bang.

“I had to stay with my family. These are not just my teammates. These are my brothers.”

And most of the family stuck together, despite less than ideal circumstances.

Miller-McCoy doesn’t have its own gym. The school practices and plays its home games at nearby St. Mary’s. They have to walk a couple blocks to practice.

The season didn’t start well, either. They lost their first five games, but they were against some of the city’s Class 5A and 4A heavyweights like St. Augustine and Helen Cox.

“But we knew those games would get us prepared for the season,” Joiner said. “We had a real good core group. We had five or six kids that have been here playing together, so we thought we could have a good year.”

Jacobs, one of six seniors, was part of that core group. He has been at the school, which is for grades 5-12, since it first opened.

The other seniors are Robert Bates, who scored 10 points Wednesday, Keyon Peters, Arron Young, Kyle Hebert and Antione Leroy.

The underclassmen are juniors Ash and Keithen Hunter, sophomores Stanley Tate, Jonovan Parker and Tyree Broussard and freshmen Isha Hunt and Darren Jones.

It was Jones, a freshman, who scored the final point in Miller-McCoy’s regular-season history Wednesday with a layup on a nice assist from sophomore Tate.

It was a glimpse of how bright the future could’ve been.

But for the Lions, who will be on the road in the first round of the playoffs, the future is now. And there’s not much time left.

“It’s tough,” Jacobs said. “We talk about how we wanted to make our mark. We want do something that people can remember Miller-McCoy by.”

Yes, they are trying to go out with a bang.

“Or as much of a bang as we can ,” said Joiner.