By Tony Burns
HAMPTON - Derrion Davis pumped in 31 points Friday to lead Strong past Woodlawn 70-68 in the semifinals of the 1A Region 4 Tournament.
The Bulldogs improved to 15-13 on the season and will play in the championship game tonight at 7:30 in Hampton.
“It feels really good. These guys have worked really hard,” said Strong coach Greg Anthony.
“The season didn’t start out very good. We’ve had a lot of bumps during the season. But, all that hard work they’ve done, six o’clock workouts over the summer, putting up with me … it’s paying off. I am so happy for these seniors. Man, it’s just unreal.”
Anthony said the Bears nailed 14 3-pointers in each of the two meetings with Strong this season.
On Friday, Woodlawn hit 11 3-pointers but only converted four in the second half.
“We tried to take it away but they missed some, too. It was more of them missing, probably, just being tired,” said Anthony. “They played down to the wire last night, too. And then, they had to stay and watch their girls play after that because the same coach, coaches both teams. So, they didn’t get home until probably eleven-thirty or midnight.
“I told them, they’re probably going to hit them early. But, I felt like their legs would go out in the second half on them. So, it was a little bit of that but we played them different, too. We left the middle open more. We stretched the guards out towards their shooters. We decided if they were going to beat us, they were going to beat us on twos instead of threes.”
The Bulldogs led 18-17 after one quarter and 34-33 at the half. Strong carried a 50-44 advantage into the fourth.
The Bears trailed 66-57 after a bucket by Strong’s Jadarrius Dixon with 3:12 left in the game. Woodlawn answered with Joseph Jones’ 3-pointer.
With a six-point lead and the ball, the Bulldogs pulled it out and started to run clock. Until, with 2:20 left, Dixon jumped up and drained a jump shot from the baseline … right in front of the Strong bench.
“I’m over there hollering, ‘No. No. No. Jadarrius, no.’” said Anthony.
“Whenever he hit it, he turned around and said, ‘I gotcha, Coach.’ It’s one of those where you go, ‘Oh, no. Oh, good shot.’”
Woodlawn finally ignored the 3-point line and started attacking the basket offensively. Cole Reynolds penetrated and fed Justin Hargrave for a lay-up.
After a turnover, Shawn Ashmore scored inside for the Bears before, with 1:07 remaining, Jones drove in for a lay-up, cutting the deficit to 68-66.
Woodlawn chased the ball on defense before Reynolds stepped in front of a Strong pass for a steal with about 45 seconds left.
The Bears went inside but Strong’s Demarcus Baker met Woodlawn’s Austin Weatherford at the basket, defended the shot and claimed the rebound with 34.9 on the clock.
Baker hit one free throw to stretch the lead to three.
Woodlawn attacked the lane again with Reynolds drawing the foul. He hit both free throws to cut the lead to 69-68 with 13.7 remaining.
Anthony said he wanted either Davis or Dixon to get the ball. Davis got it and was fouled with 11.3 ticks left.
He made one free throw, leaving the Bears two down as they rushed the ball up the floor.
Weatherford, after a pump fake, forced up a 3-point attempt from the corner, which rimmed out at the buzzer.
Baker and Dixon scored 15 and 13, respectively, for Strong.
Weatherford led Woodlawn with 20 while Reynolds and Jones added 16 and 12, respectively.
“I’m just happy,” said Anthony. “We’re going to enjoy this one. We’re going to stay here and watch this last one between Nevada and Dermott. We’ve played both of them so we know what we’re going to get.”
PARKERS CHAPEL 62,
HARMONY GROVE 50
POYEN - Nate Garrett-Evans had 24 points and Josh Osborn added 16 points, as the Trojans advanced to the finals of the 2A South Regional Tournament.
The Trojans (27-3), who have won 16 straight, will take on Bearden in the regional final tonight.
Dawson Goodwin had nine points and Amari Bell chipped in with eight points.
After leading 21-6 after the opening period, the Hornets rallied to cut the Trojans' lead to 33-30 at intermission.
Parkers Chapel extended their lead to 46-38 after three periods before moving on.
"We played much better tonight than we did against Foreman," said Parkers Chapel coach Josh Langley.
"Offensively, we played really well. We played lights out defensively in the first and let them get some open looks in the second quarter. It's a big test, but I know we are up for the challenge."
JUNCTION CITY 47
FORDYCE - The Owls broke the game open in the second quarter, turning a 15-7 lead after the first period to a 33-10 advantage at intermission en route to advancing to the finals of the 4-3A Regional Tournament.
The Dragons (16-11) sliced the Owls' lead to eight in the final minute of the game before McGehee won by the final margin.
"We played extremely hard in the second half, but we turned the ball over way too much," said Junction City coach Kendall Hutcheson.
Jakobe Fisher led the Dragons with 11 points, while Hishmma Taylor added 10 points.
Terrell Gibson finished with nine points for the Dragons, who will play Centerpoint in the third-place game this afternoon.