Hazlehurst traveled to Crystal Springs Friday night and split a basketball twin-bill with their arch rivals in front of a standing room only crowd. The Lady Indians dropped a 48 – 34 decision, and the Indians came back from a 20-point deficit to post a 75 – 70 win. Both squads return to Crystal Springs for the District Tournament this week.
The girls’ game got off to a low start offensively. Tied at only three points each, CSHS took a 5 – 3 lead at the first quarter buzzer. Both offenses started clicking in the second stanza and produced a 17 – 17 halftime score.
A 14 – 6 Crystal Springs run in the third quarter put the game out of reach for the Lady Indians who could manage only 11 fourth-quarter points.
Jasmine James led the offense with 17 points, followed by Octavia Anderson with 9. Jenefrique Levi added a 3-pointer, and Kia Funchess and Siara Rockingham both scored 2. Funchess did yeoman’s work rebounding on both ends of the floor. Kiara Shannon added a free throw.
The Indians ran into a buzz saw in the first half of the nightcap. Crystal Springs entered the game on a “Senior Night” emotional high and dominated and demoralized Hazlehurst through the first two quarters. Leading by as many as 20 points, CSHS enjoyed what they must have thought was a comfortable 44 – 26 halftime lead.
If Indian Head Coach Tim McDaniel has a “guaranteed to turn the team around” halftime speech, he used it to perfection. The Indians hit the floor in the second half with the same players in the same maroon and white uniforms, but they were a completely different team.
Hazlehurst did it with defense. Gone were the Tigers’ wide open fast breaks and wide open jump shots. The Indians backed their renewed defensive efforts with more patience and better shot selection on offense, and the momentum began to swing to the maroon and white.
Gabriel Grey’s two-handed slam dunk at the buzzer capped a 22 – 11 HHS third quarter, cut the score to 55 – 48, and brought the Indian faithful to their feet.
Crystal Springs regained an 11-point lead with a full court breakaway on an inbounds pass with 6:20 left to play. Fred Fuller answered with four of his 16 second-half points over the next two minutes. A steal and layup by Grey with 3:55 left to play closed the gap to 64 – 61 and forced a Crystal Springs time out.
Throughout the last half of the quarter, McDaniel utilized another coaching strategy that worked to perfection. The Indians fouled at every appropriate opportunity and sent the Tigers to the free throw line. The result? CSHS hit only 3 of 16 in the quarter, and HHS turned rebound after rebound into scoring opportunities.
With 3:13 left to play, Grey’s two free throws gave the Indians their first lead at 65 – 64. Ties followed at 65 and 67. Fittingly, Fuller and Grey sealed the deal.
A Fuller 3-pointer from deep in the left corner gave the HHS the lead for keeps with 1:11 left to play, and another two-handed slam dunk from Grey with 44 seconds on the clock took the rest of the air out of the home-standing Tigers’ baloon.
Grey and Fuller ended with 21 and 18 points respectively.
Torey Quinn and Eric Walker added 9 each. Playing with a painful knee, Walker had to leave the game twice and added much more to the win than showed up in the stats.
Dunterrio Goodwin scored 8 points, and Kenjamin Newsome added a free throw to the winning cause.
The road to the “Big House” begins for both schools at the District Tournament in Crystal Springs this week.