In the world of high school basketball, capturing momentum early in the season is imperative to teams who have aspirations of making a deep run in the state playoffs come February.

As is in any sport, playing catch-up is remarkably challenging come time for region play and — at this level — Cinderella stories are much less frequent. Luckily for head coach Steven Davis and the Smiths Station Panthers, the first 10 games of the year pointed the program in the right direction.

Following their victory over Loachapoka on Monday night, the Panthers find themselves victors in nine of their first 10 contests. Their head coach is fired up.

“Great start,” Davis said. “You’re talking about the first third of the season, only losing one game.”

Davis noted that — although his squad has a blemish on its record — the team’s season-long goal was not a perfect season.

“The goal wasn’t to go undefeated,” Davis said. “The goal was to get better every day and get to the playoffs so, yeah, 8-1, we’re good with it. We know what we’ve got to fix to get better.”

It’s also worth noting that the Panthers’ lone loss was just a four point difference at the hands of undefeated Enterprise.

“Enterprise was the state runner-up last year,” Davis said. “It’s a great quality team to play. Good back-and-forth game. It was back-and forth all the way to the last minute.”

According to Davis, the team’s hot start can be attributed to the large-scale return of players from last year’s four-loss playoff team.

“It was an easy transition,” Davis said. “The expectation was already set on what we wanted to do, how we wanted to play and where we wanted to go.”

With the culture already in place, all it took was Davis’ guys stepping into the roles he asked them to fill.

“We returned a lot of players from last year,” Davis said. “So they kinda knew what we wanted to do and what we needed to get better at.”

Of the returners, a pair of seniors standout, stretch four Dadrevius Weathers and forward Trequan Turner.

“Dre Weathers of course,” Davis said. “He’s averaging a double-double for us and Tre Turner is having a big year.”

The duo has lit up the scoreboard to this point in 2021 and their head coach plans to rely on their production throughout the year.

“It’s usually a two-point difference if one of them doesn’t go for 30,” Davis said. “For the most part, one of those guys is giving us 20 and the other is giving us 18. Those guys are leaders.”

As a bonus spotlight, the Panthers’ head coach mentioned how impressed he was by senior two-sport standout Amhari Peabody. Davis says that — although Peabody is more of a natural at football — his love for basketball impresses him every day.

“He’s a really good basketball player,” Davis said. “… I think naturally he’s a better football player but he loves basketball with everything in him.”

The Panthers seek to build upon their impressive start when the team travels to Seale, Alabama, on Friday night to take on the Warriors of Russell county. Tip-off between the two out-of-region foes is set for 7 p.m. CST.