Thursday, February 25, 2010
Back to the Big House
By CLAUDE VINSON
The Holly Springs Hawks are returning to the Class 3A State Tournament after a four-year absence.
“It feels great,” coach Naylond Hayes said after his team’s North Half championship. “I’d about forgotten how it feels to get down there. And it definitely feels good going down as first place (in the North).”
Holly High won back-to-back state crowns in 2004 and 2005 and then lost in the title game in 2006, its last trip to the Big House (Mississippi Coliseum).
The Hawks opened North Half play against the Cougars of South Pontotoc on February 16. The Hawks appeared hungry and eager. They were coming off of their 3-3A finals loss to East Side.
They let the Cougars stay with them for a couple of minutes in the first before they went out front by eight at 22-14. In the second quarter, the Hawks’ gunners seemed a bit reluctant to take the three point shot, however, their opponent was not shy at all. They hit about four to keep closing the gap. The Hawks found the urge and dropped a few of their own. They left the floor with a lead of 35-26 at intermission.
The Hawks showed their old form in the third. They went methodical. They were dishing the ball to the open shot and they were sinking them. Holly High was 20 ahead at the end of that frame. They had clamped down tight on the Cougars’ offense except perhaps for Jermaine Bean. He was pulling up deep and sticking the long ball. He made six. It helped his team’s cause but it was not nearly enough because the Hawks would not be deterred. They went on to claim the victory at 70-47.
Jonathan Bownes pitched in 18 to lead Holly High. Darius Dowdy added 12 and Kentona Ship and Terek James had 10 each.
The Cougars were paced by Bean with 22 and Gary Lipsey with 14.
Holly High hosts
When Booneville bowed out in the first round, the remainder of the playoffs was hosted by Holly High. Their second opponent was the highly-touted Tigers of S.V. Marshall out of Lexington. Their reported season record was 26-1.
If this intimidated the Hawks it didn’t show. The first period was fast and rough and fouls were given. However, a steak and a break-a-way lay-up gave the Hawks a 17-7 first quarter edge.
The Tigers were getting most of their points from second chances. They wiped out most of the Hawks’ first quarter points, held them to three and hit 11 for themselves to be two back at halftime at 20-18.
It turned into the battle of the boards in the third. Since both teams had such great leaping abilities, the defensive game was played above the rim. The Hawks were playing with the intensity that had brought them two state titles. They had their first double digit lead of 37-25 at the end of three.
The Tigers clawed through the Hawks’ biggest lead and again were two points behind when an injury timeout was called at 2:51 left. Dowdy gave the Hawks a little breathing room with two freebies. The Tigers got away with a foul which appeared to be clearly intentional. The Hawks didn’t lose an ounce of composure. They toughed it out and upset Marshall 51-47.
Bownes struck for 20, while Ryan Wilkins shot for 15.
Darius Ollie was the lone Tiger in double figures at 11.
Hawks beat Corinth
On Friday, the Hawks faced a foe which is no stranger to the travails of this part of the season. Since the class structure was realigned in 1985, Corinth has made the trip down the big road to the Big House six times. They lost the first trip to county rival Alcorn Central. They won the next five (back to back in ‘89-’90). Their last time was 2002.
Holly High’s first shot at state was in 1982, a loss under the old class system. They didn’t return until ’04 (back to back in ’04 and ’05), then lost to Yazoo County in a three-peat bid in ’06. So both teams were probably thinking of another play date in the Big House during their game in the North Half, a second for both teams.
If that was the case, the Hawks were perhaps thinking harder because they jumped all over the Warriors in the first period 22-6.
Holly High really turned up the heat in the second frame. They made the atmosphere uncomfortable, if not unbearable. Their rebounding was unmatchable and all of their shots were falling. They left he floor at intermission with an almost flawless quarter of basketball and a 46-19 score.
The Hawks substituted at will in the third and fourth periods, but the climate didn’t change much. They ran up a 71-27 tally at the end of three and went on to win at 86-53.
The Hawks had four shooters in double figures, Dowdy with 22, Bownes with 19, Terek James with 18 and Wilkins with 14.
Steven Polk led the Warriors with 21, aided by Eric Richardson with 11.
Hawks win North
Many had predicted the final game in the North Half would be a tooth and nail battle between the Hawks of Holly High and the Trojans of East Side of Cleveland. This would be the fourth meeting between these two this season. The Trojans had won all previous. The gym was packed with the Hawks’ faithful. All were hoping that the Hawks would end this four-game rivalry with a win.
And the Hawks looked as if they were ready. They opened with a trey from Dowdy. They were keeping their eyes on the ball and contesting the Trojan big men at both ends of the floor. They led 12-5 in the first quarter.
Both squads got in some good shots in the second. Holly High had long ball help from Dowdy, Shipp and Kendrick Pool. They hit the locker room at intermission with a score of 31-23 to the total delight of the highly-partisan crowd.
Holly High saw its lead dwindle down to one point in the third as the Trojans went methodical. Play was rough and the incidence of fouling increased (there had been just five fouls committed in the entire first half). The Hawks made a few mental errors of which the Trojans took full advantage. Holly High clung to that one-point margin at the end of the third at 39-38.
The score bounced back and forth in the last quarter. With the Hawks trailing 49-48 with 1:01 left in regulation, Dowdy had a chance to put the Hawks one ahead at the charity stripe on a double bonus pair. He missed the first but tied it at 49 with second. Holly High got another break when East Side lost the ball on an inbound violation. Each team had one last desperation effort before time expired.
Holly High got another break when Trojan big man Johnny O’Bryant fouled out. Dowdy and Wilkins cemented the 57-51 overtime victory for the Hawks by making four of five shots at the line. The Holly High Hawks had finally taken down the East Side boys.
Bownes led the Hawks with 23, followed by Dowdy with 12, Shipp with nine and Wilkins with eight.
O’Bryant and Ramone Wesley led East Side with 12 each, followed by Courtavius Vaughn with 11.
The Hawks (28-4) and Trojans (27-6) will go to the state tournament as the one and two teams from the North. The Hawks will face Forest, number two from the South, Saturday, Feb. 27, at 2:30 p.m. With a win, they advance to face the East Side-Kemper County in the state title game on Friday, March 5, at 2:30 p.m.
“These kids have really played well the last few games,” Coach Hayes said. “I thik we’re peaking at the right time.”
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