By Jeff Eubanks
The boy’s team hosted the Baldwyn Bearcats in the first round of the Region 2A North Half playoffs Tuesday, Feb. 19 at W.V.H.S gymnasium.
Last season’s meeting between the two ended with the Bearcats winning by 40 points. The Blue Devils were determined not to let that happen again.
Out of the gates the Blue Devils were able to put up five points in the opening minute of play. The Bearcats responded with a 22-8 run to close out the first quarter as the Blue Devils could not get a shot to fall. The Bearcats began to use the pick and roll, slashing their big men through the lane to score several easy buckets. It was not long before the Blue Devils had that played snuffed out though.
Six seconds into the second quarter the Bearcats had an 11 point lead with a score of 24-13. The lead was the biggest that either team was able to establish throughout the game. The Blue Devils were able to cut the score within four with a minute to go, but a technical foul free throw and a shot at the buzzer had the Blue Devils down 33-26.
“We got behind by 10 and they didn’t hang their heads,” said John Sherman, head coach of the Blue Devils.
Junior A.J. Folson was able to score 10 points during the first half against the big bodies of Baldwyn on the inside. Junior Benny Weekly was also able to add six points.
Baldwyn’s Dorian Berry led all scorers at the half with 14 points. Their other big man, Andrew Shelton (6’5”, 260 lbs.), was able to put in 10 points during the first half as well.
The Blue Devils were able to cut the lead within one point at the four and a half minute mark, but a 7-2 run by Baldwyn had the Devils down 44-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I told them earlier today (Tuesday) to give everything they had the first 24 minutes and when we got to the beginning of the fourth quarter to see where we were.”
A bucket by freshman Tavi Toles with a little over six minutes to go cut the Bearcats lead to three points, 46-44. The three point lead was the most the Bearcats were able to get up the rest of the game.
Benny Weekly was able to tie the game up 49-49 with two minutes and forty seconds left to play. A timeout was soon called to slow the Blue Devils momentum down by Baldwyn’s coach.
Folson was able to score a three the old fashioned way, knocking down a bucket while getting fouled then hitting a free throw to tie the game up 52-52 with a minute to play.
The Bearcats, after holding the ball for more than thirty seconds, were able to get a shot to fall with 13 seconds to go to take the lead 54-52.
Coach Sherman called a timeout with eight seconds to go to set up a play for the final shot.
Off the inbound, junior Brandon Brooks was able to get the ball and penetrate into the lane. When the lane collapsed Brooks dished it to Toles for the game’s final shot. From eight feet out Toles was able to get a good look, but could not get the shot to fall as it rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
“A freshman that has a great touch took it. It left his hand smooth and looked like it was going in,” commented Sherman on the game’s final shot.
“I told him to hold his head up. He would have a lot more chances.”
Water Valley’s big man matched up with Baldwyn’s as Folson and Berry finished as the game’s leading scorer with 21 points each. Folson was also able to pull down a team high seven rebounds as well. Benny Weekly showed his complete game with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Toles finished with nine points and three rebounds. Brooks added six points and two assists. Shelton, the other half of the big man combo, was able to put in 14 points.
“In 28 years of coaching I have never been more proud of a teams’ effort than I was tonight. I was proud of the way they handled the game and conducted themselves on the floor.”
The Blue Devils have long forgotten last year’s one-win season with a closing record of 17-15. The Blue Devils trip to the playoffs was the first since 2003.