GOOD HOPE —
There’s no escaping it. When Vinemont and Good Hope take the court this season, fans should be well aware they’re in for a nail-biter.
That was certainly the case on Friday night, when the Eagles survived a furious comeback bid by the Raiders to avenge a two-point loss last December with a 64-61 triumph.
Senior center Garrett Sipe cranked out 21 points, and Lance Stanley was mighty helpful with 15 in the win, which improved Vinemont to 8-12 overall and 2-3 in area play.
“It’s a big area win,” coach Todd Johnson said. “Good Hope did a great job of coming back, and we did enough to hang on. It’s a good rivalry. The kids play hard and with good sportsmanship.”
The Eagles wrapped up the first two frames with close 16-15 and 30-27 leads before using a 23-6 run in the third quarter to jump ahead 53-37 with eight minutes to play. That was about the time the Raiders made their move, storming all the way back to within three in the final moments.
A foul as time expired sent Good Hope’s Eli Marty to the free-throw line with a chance to send the showdown into overtime. The senior was wayward on his first attempt, however, clinching the county contest in Vinemont’s favor.
Despite the miss, coach Mike Jones said he wouldn’t think twice about putting the ball back in Marty’s hands if a similar situation arises this season.
“There’s no other person I would have rather had on the line,” Jones said of his seasoned vet. “That’s a lot of pressure standing out there by yourself with the game on the line.”
The Eagles also received contributions from Austin Mosley, eight points; Riley Foust, seven; Tyler Tucker, five; Trey Tucker, four; and Taylor Evans, two.
“We played really well and faltered a little bit in the fourth quarter, but we got out of it with a win,” Johnson said. “We must match up well with one another. Every game’s been close at the end.”
Vinemont will close out its area schedule next Tuesday at home versus Danville. As one of three teams at 2-3 — the Hawks and Raiders are the others — the Eagles could wrap up the area’s second seed with a win Tuesday and Good Hope loss at Hanceville next Thursday.
If Vinemont is victorious and the Raiders pull off the upset, however, a coin toss would determine the area’s No. 2 slot.
Hanceville (4-1) safely secured the regular season area title Friday by improving to 4-1 with a 47-43 victory versus Danville.
Andy Cofer was the Raiders’ main man with 25 points. Marty and Kainan Smith were both next on the list with nine. Other Good Hope contributors were Alex Cofer, six points; Tyler Vanderburg, five; Jonathan Grigsby, four; and Matt Cofer, three.
“We started about as flat as you possibly could, but I kind of expected that after an emotional win like our last game,” said Jones, whose Raiders were coming off a 71-70 overtime upset of Cold Springs three days earlier. “I am really proud of these guys. We don’t ever believe we are down and out. We believe we can hang with anyone.”
% Fairview 50, Locust Fork 41: With news of a classmate passing away in a car crash reaching the Aggies before Friday’s game, the Purple and Gold exited the locker room with one goal in mind — win one for Lewis Beam.
It wasn’t an easy task for the grief-stricken group of teenaged boys, but, in the end, they found a way to get it done, setting aside the Hornets for the second time this season.
“It was tough for everyone tonight,” Fairview coach Kurt Knight said of the tragic news. “I’m not sure how they played, but the players wanted to leave everything they had on the court in his memory.”
The Aggies were up 10-3 after the first frame, as well as 16-15 and 32-25 at the other quarter breaks.
Senior Elijah Garrison topped a trio of Purple and Gold players in double figures with 18 points and eight rebounds. Ethan Widner and Chance Hill tacked on 10 points apiece, Tyler Yearwood, nine; and Hunter Brewer, three.
Fairview moved to 4-1 in area play with a home game against St. Clair County waiting in the wings next Thursday. The Saints, who also have one area loss, edged the Aggies 58-50 in mid-December.
The Purple and Gold will travel to Dora Monday.
% Locust Fork 59, Fairview 41: Taylor Ann Yeager picked up 17 points and three steals, but the Lady Aggies ultimately came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard in an area clash.
Marlana Johnson piled on nine points and three thefts of her own, while Ashley Latham added six points.
Other contributors for the Purple and Gold were Sarah Harper, Dalys Mullican, Lizzie Garrison and Abby Taylor, all two points; and Desiree Wilhite, one. Harper also pulled down eight rebounds.
Junior varsity boys
% Fairview 40, Locust Fork 32: Austin Harris hauled in 11 points, and Austin Fletcher touted eight in an eight-point win for the Aggies.
Other Purple and Gold contributors were Sid Smith, six points; Akil Parham, five; Kyle Knop and Caleb Chambers, four each; and Austin Scott, two.
% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.