Demopolis defeats Essex at Classic

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sometimes, being a 4A basketball team playing a 1A team doesn’t matter all that much. And sometimes, it does.

Friday night’s game between Demopolis and John Essex, the first between the city rivals since 2003, was one of those times. The Tigers used their superior depth to wear down the thinner Hornets and turn a 22-20 halftime deficit into a comfortable 54-38 victory in the final game of the 2005 Demopolis Classic.

Demopolis got points from 10 different players and outscored Essex 23-5 in the decisive third quarter.

Email newsletter signup

“We’ve got a pretty good rotation with our substitutes right now,” Demopolis head coach Jesse Bell said after the game. “We spent too much time watching in the first half, but in the second we were more aggressive going to the basket, got some turnovers, got a lead, and put them away… If we can be more consistent, we can be a pretty good basketball team.”

The Tigers hardly looked like at team headed to a 16-point victory in the early going, however. A Keith Collier putback following a missed free throw gave the Hornets an eight-point lead, 21-13, with 3:47 remaining in the first half.

But Demopolis scored seven of the half’s final eight points, the last two coming on a Casey Cantey basket with 1:02 left, to take momentum into halftime. The Tigers then wasted little time seizing control after the break as Cantey scored six points in a quarter-opening 8-0 run, including a breakaway dunk that brought the home crowd to life.

A quick three points from Darnell Edwards got Essex back within three at 28-25. But freshman forward Brian Taylor scored 10 of his 14 points in the final 4:15 of the third quarter, powering a 15-2 quarter-closing run that put the game away.

“We played really well in the first half, and I thought we did a pretty good job containing [Demopolis guard Dontrell] Miller. But we just got tired,” said Essex assistant coach Donald Constant, filling in for Hornet head coach Alphus Shipman, absent for personal reasons. “We started walking around and we missed some easy shots.”

One key for Demopolis was the play of Taylor, whose 14 points were a season high.

“I gave him a game ball. He did exactly what we asked him to do,” Bell said. “He made some great rebounds, some put backs… he had a great game. He was our MVP tonight.”

Taylor was joined in double figures by Cantey, who finished with a game-high 15. Miller added 8 for the Tigers, followed by Collins Espy with 5, and Willie Blount, Sandy Taylor, Macarthur Johnson, Patrick Robertson, Willie Gracey, and Dwiuan White each with 2.

Demetrius Branch and Keniote Phillips shared high-scoring honors for the Hornets with 9 points each. Collier, Edwards, and Ken Phillips each scored 6 and Chris Jones chipped in 2.

The win gave the Demopolis boys a 2-0 record in this season’s Demopolis Classic and improved the Tigers’ overall record to 7-2.

“We had a great turnout,” Bell said of the Classic and the Friday night crowd. “I’d like to thank everyone for coming out and the parents who helped with the concession stand.”

Demopolis girls 68, John Essex 5

The Lady Tigers defense held the visiting Lady Hornets without a first-half point and without a field goal for the duration of the game.

Demopolis senior Shawnese Armstead outscored Essex 15-0 by herself in one stretch of the first quarter, and Demopolis would lead 52-0 at halftime.

The teams agreed to shorten the second-half quarters to four minutes each. With 2:46 to play in the third quarter, Essex’s Nyeshia Daniels hit one of two free throws to get the Lady Hornets on the board. Maria Daniels would provide Essex with the other four points from the free throw line in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.