Exeter leads Ozark 7 title race
By Jared Lankford
Down and out was the best way to describe the Exeter boys basketball program when Jay Allen was elevated to head coach two years ago.
Things went from bad to worse for Allen in his first season, with the transfer of all-state player Tanner White.
Despite the mountain that lay before him, Allen laced up his shoes, rolled up his sleeves picked up his whistle and went to work.
"I saw potential in the players that we had," Allen said. "My approach to every day was to remain positive and promote and environment of growth. If you don't remain positive, you only set yourself up for failure."
You don't have to spend very long talking to Allen to see and be inspired by his optimistic personality. However, it is his effect and the results on the court at Exeter that are more impressive.
In his first year at the helm, Exeter limped to a 1-21 finish. His second season witnessed a marked improvement with a 9-18 record.
This year, the Tigers have started 5-3 and are 2-0 in the Ozark 7 Conference. If not for a couple of late-game slip-ups Exeter could easily be 7-1.
"The players and I have worked hard to build a trust," said Allen. "They trust and embrace the system I have installed and I now trust them to to make the right decisions. They are an unselfish group."
Speed and pressure is the style that Allen wants his players to embrace.
Exeter is led by Colton Stringer. At 6-0, 180 pounds he is the unquestioned floor general and leader.
Allen described his play as fearless, warrior-like and hard-nosed.
"Colton is like an old-school player," Allen said. "He doesn't try to try to finesse and dip-see-do his way to the basket. He attacks the rims and draws contact."
His understanding of floor spacing and speed make him dangerous. Stringer is averaging 25 points per game and his aggressive play has been rewarded with 90 free throw attempts.
"We aren't a big team by any stretch of the imagination," added Allen. "We win games based on effort, intensity and want."
On Friday, the Tigers invade Washburn with a chance to put a stranglehold on the conference race against the Southwest Trojans.
Rusty Roe's Trojans will be a good test for the upstart Tigers.
"Southwest is a scary team," Allen said. "We don't matchup well with their size. Rusty does a great job preparing his squad and you can see them getting better each game."
Allen stated that the key for Exeter will be their defense.
"We can't approach the game with the attitude that we are going to run past and out score them," Allen said. "We have to trap and play fundamentally sound in order to be successful."
Tipoff set for 6 p.m.