CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

December 28, 2012

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

By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times

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.”

% West Point 54, Priceville 47: Ryder Jones went berserk for 22 points in the paint — and even showed his range with one 3-pointer — and Kris Keller did damage with 14 points to help the hosts rebound from a devastating collapse the day before.

The Bulldogs had no answers down low for Jones, who poured on 11 of his points in the second quarter and added nine more in the second half.

West Point (13-5) held a slim two-point advantage at halftime but increased its lead to eight only eight minutes later with a 16-10 third quarter.

The Warriors will begin a brutal five-game stretch (Holly Pond, Fairview, Cullman, Lawrence County and Hartselle) next Friday at home.

% West Morgan 75, Cold Springs 71: Josh Freeman nearly willed the Eagles (10-6) to an inspired victory with a spectacular 36-point performance, but Brandon Roberts’ 37-point display was enough to put the Rebels over the top.

Roberts started the night hot with 15 points and ended it even hotter, scoring 18 in the final eight minutes.

Freeman saved most of his contributions for the second half, chipping in 22 points in the third and fourth quarters. He finished with a stellar six 3-pointers.

Triston Chambers and Layne Rice were Cold Springs’ other players in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively.

On tap for the Eagles is four straight ballgames against area opponents, starting with a road matchup versus Sulligent next Friday.

% Brewer 62, Good Hope 44: Andy Cofer posted 16 points and Mason Johnson scored 11, as the Raiders dropped the day’s first game.

Good Hope will host Holly Pond on Jan. 7.

% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at robk@cullmantimes.com.