By Blake Ells
Mountain Brook alumnus Bucky McMillan changed the culture at his alma mater. Under his tutelage, the Spartans have now won four state basketball championships in the past six seasons.
It continued with a 73-49 victory over McGill-Toolen in this season’s title game.
The win capped a 33-4 season for the Spartans, and the game was never close. By the end of the third quarter, Mountain Brook had mounted a 29-point lead. That’s the new Mountain Brook – the Mountain Brook of Bucky McMillan, who is Over the Mountain Journal’s Coach of the Year.
Just two Alabama teams can claim victories over this 2018 team – Wenonah and Hazel Green. The team’s other two losses this season came from New Jersey and Mater Dei in California. The Spartans stacked their schedule, and that test made them unstoppable by the time they faced local competition. Huffman was the only thorn in their side, a school that has become a rival by default; three contests this year were decided by a total of 12 points in the Spartans’ favor.
Junior Trendon Watford was named the state tournament MVP after scoring 26 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. He added five blocked shots, three assists and one steal. He’s also Over the Mountain Journal’s Player of the Year.
His teammates Sean Elmore and Lior Berman joined him on the All-Tourney team. Elmore knocked down 6-of-10 from beyond the arc and finished the state championship game with 20 points. Berman and Britton Johnson had six points each.
“This is (McMillan’s) fourth state championship in six years,” said Watford. “He’s changed the program and the way people think about Mountain Brook now. He’s going to go down as one of the best coaches that ever coached in this state. It’s only going to get better for him and for this program.”
This season began with a difficult schedule in which the Spartans knocked down a couple of Georgia state champions.
“It was a real special year. We beat Norcross and Langston-Hughes, who both ended up winning their state championships,” Watford said. “We went there to prove something. We went in there with a chip on our shoulder and we came out successful.”
Watford is the state’s top basketball prospect for 2019. But he has plenty of time left in high school, and he’s not in a hurry. He hasn’t yet narrowed down his college choices. McMillan has been supportive of the process.
“He’s always just told me to do what’s best for me,” Watford said. “I came here in ninth grade and he has changed the entire culture of the program. He changed the style I play. He has me playing hard all game now, and that was a big change when I came here.”
The Spartans lose a big senior class, which will make a third consecutive state championship challenging, but Watford remains confident that he’ll have a supporting cast that can keep this dynasty rolling.
“We’re losing two starters and two others from our bench, but I feel like we can replace them,” he said. “We have a lot of people in my class that played in the state championship my 10th-grade season. We have a lot of experienced people.”
With Watford, Mountain Brook will certainly enter next season as the favorite to repeat. Three consecutive state championships for the Spartans? Five in seven years? Just a decade ago, that seemed impossible.