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December 28, 2012

WEST POINT CLASSIC: Aggies blow 18-point lead, still clinch tourney title

WEST POINT — No lead was safe at the West Point Classic.

West Morgan learned that the hard way on Wednesday versus Fairview, West Point swallowed its pill the following day against Danville and the Aggies had the favor returned on Day 3, blowing a 18-point third-quarter advantage and allowing Lawrence County to squeak by 57-56.

But by the time the tournament came to a close on Friday night, Fairview still secured the first-place trophy for the county team with the best record after three games. The Warriors took down Priceville 54-47 to pull even with the Aggies at 2-1, but the Purple and Gold edged West Point in the tiebreaker — the most combined wins by each team’s three opponents. Fairview had five between West Morgan, Priceville and Lawrence County, while the Warriors could only count four from Brewer, Danville and Priceville.

Securing a tourney title with a loss wasn’t entirely impressive to Aggie coach Greg Boatright.

“If we had won it like we were supposed to win it, it would mean something,” he said. “To win it because of some funky tiebreaker system, it doesn’t quite mean the same thing. Why would it? That was the championship game, and we lost it.”

The beginning of Friday’s contest with the Red Devils went a whole lot better for Fairview than the end. Blake Parker, Andy Hendrix, Luke Bailey, Elijah Garrison and Peter Kessler shot lights out in the first half, closing the second quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 39-27 lead into the locker room.

The Aggies’ biggest advantage was 47-29 early in the third quarter before Lawrence County began its comeback. Fairview was only able to muster five points in the final eight minutes, while the Red Devils scored just enough to win with 14 points in the frame.

The tying and game-winning points came on free throws by Montel McDaniel with 19.5 seconds remaining.

“Offensively, we got on a good run, got a good lead and then we just kept jacking it up,” Boatright said. “I explained to the boys, that’s the reason we beat West Morgan. They allowed us to beat them. We allowed Lawrence County to beat us. Those kinds of games are just hard to take.”

The Red Devils’ Jesse Childress barely beat the Aggies’ Andy Hendrix in an in-game 3-point contest, draining five from behind the arc en route to a game-high 19 points. Hendrix finished with four treys and a team-high 17 points.

Bailey wound up with 11 points for the Purple and Gold, while Garrison pitched in nine, Parker contributed eight in the post and Kessler had seven. Ethan Widner scored four points off the bench.

Donnivan Wheeler also reached double digits with 13 points for Lawrence County, which clinched the first-place tournament trophy for the best record (3-0) by a team not from Cullman County.

Fairview (11-5) will have a week off before welcoming Oneonta to town for a crucial area battle.

“We had a good long talk about tonight, and they know they’re not going to beat their next five opponents without playing good basketball,” Boatright said. “We’ve just got to keep working. I’ve got a good bunch of boys.”

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