Friday, March 03, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Wolves outlast Warriors

Leader sports editor

QUITMAN – What Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter couldn’t do at the free-throw line, it did with defense Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament – seal the victory.

The Wolves got a steal, took a charge and blocked a shot on East Poinsett County’s final three possessions to preserve a 64-62 win and advance to the final four.

EPC was the best 2A team Lighthouse had faced all year, and coach Kelvin Parker knew it was going to be a challenge his team would have to meet.

“They have been scouting us all year,” said Parker. “They were coming to our games, so we knew they would be ready. I don’t think we knew at the start how good they were, but we stepped up. Our seniors came through at the end with those two big stops.”

Leading 63-62, Lighthouse senior Cameron Shaffer went to the free-throw line with 21 seconds to go, and missed the front end of a one-and-one.

EPC got the rebound and called timeout with 16 seconds left. Freshman Devontae Davis alertly stole a lazy inbounds pass and was fouled as he attempted a transition layup with 13 seconds to go. The official ruled the foul was before the act of shooting, and Davis also missed the front end of the one-and-one.

EPC’s Xzavier Reed got the rebound and went the distance of the court, but Shaffer stepped in front of him in the lane and took the charge. The official, with a flare for the dramatic, paused several seconds as the crowd waited to see if the foul would be offensive or defensive. When he gave the signal, the Lighthouse side of Quitman Arena went wild.

EPC quickly fouled Wolf point guard Chris Mims. He made the first, but missed the second foul shot. Jase Whitfield got the rebound this time and also dribbled the length of the floor. He came to a jump stop before plowing into Lighthouse’s Zach Bobo, and rose high for the potential game winner. But Bobo rose higher – much higher. And Whitfield’s shot bounced off both of Bobo’s outstretched forearms as time expired.

“It wasn’t looking good early, butthey came back,” Parker said. “That was a good one, a big one.”

Things did not go well for the Wolves early. The Warriors raced out to an 11-2 advantage, and Lighthouse did not begin to close the gap until very late in the second quarter. But when they did begin to close the gap, it closed quickly.

EPC (22-10) led 30-22 with two minutes left in the first half. Gerald Doakes banked in a 28-foot 3-pointer with 1:50 to go to make it a five-point margin. After an EPC bucket, Doakes hit another 3-pointer, this time from the right corner to make the score 32-28. Whitefield answered with his own three for the Warriors, and Davis made it 35-30 by splitting the Warrior zone for a lay-in at the front of the rim with 15 seconds left.

Davis then got a steal and passed to Jakalon Simuel, who sank a 25-footer to make it 35-33 just before the buzzer ending the half.

The Warriors still led most of the second half. Lighthouse briefly took the lead when Bobo hit back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Wolves up 50-47 with two minutes left in the third, but EPC scored the last five points of the quarter and took a 52-50 lead into the fourth.

The Warriors scored first to start the final period, but Lighthouse went on a quick 5-0 run and never trailed again. The go-ahead basket came when Davis got a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the court and made a no-look pass to Bobo for a dunk that made it 55-54.

Doakes then got a steal and dished to Davis for a 57-54 Lighthouse lead with 6:23 left in the game. The game was tied twice in the final three minutes. The first time at 59-59 when Reed made two free throws.

The second time came after Bobo hit a short jumper putting the Wolves back up 61-59. Davis almost had a steal but couldn’t quite wrangle in the loose ball. EPC caught a break when Whitfield picked it up and found J´Sebian Brown alone under the basket for a layup with 37 seconds remaining.

Davis led all scorers with 20 points while Bobo and Doakes each scored 14 for Lighthouse (28-6). Brown led EPC with 19 points. Reed had 16 and Whitfield 11.

The Wolves will play the Earle Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. today in Quitman for the right to play for the state championship next week in Hot Springs.

Earle (22-5) has won 13-straight games and has not lost since Jan. 16. The Bulldogs are averaging 77 points per game in that run. They beat Lavaca 78-47 in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Lighthouse beat Lavaca 80-59 last week in regionals.