Demopolis upsets Greene for Area 5 title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Demopolis boys have won all season with defense. Monday night against Greene County, they used it to snag their biggest win yet.

The Tigers held the state’s No. 5 team without a point for more than eight minutes in the second half, long enough to put together a pivotal 8-0 run that gave Demopolis its first lead and eventually a 37-33 victory in the 4A Area 5 championship game.

“Defense is what got us here, and defense is what won the game tonight,” Demopolis head coach Jesse Bell said afterwards. “We were able to keep control of the game and the ball bounced our way.”

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After leading 18-15 at the half, Greene County took a 25-21 lead with 4:08 to play in the third quarter on a Howard Crawford basket. But from that point the Demopolis defense clamped down while the offense began converting opportunities. Two Dwiuan White baskets sandwiched a Casey Cantey jumper to give Demopolis its first lead, 27-25, with 1:12 to play in the third.

After Crawford was called for goaltending a MacArthur Johnson fast break shot, putting the visitors up four early in the fourth, Demopolis went into a spread-the-floor stall that whittled nearly two minutes off the clock and ended with a foul that sent White to the foul line.

But White missed the front end of his one-and-one, beginning a trend that would plague Demopolis’ attempts to preserve the lead throughout the remainder of the game. Crawford scored to break the Greene County drought with 3:50 to play, but Cantey answered with a basket of his own and Johnson responded to two Robert Jones free throws with another successful drive to keep the lead at four, 33-29, with 2:21 to play.

Johnson missed the front end of another one-and-one 30 seconds later, however, and after Crawford cut the lead to two Willie Blount missed the Tigers’ third consecutive front end.

But this time Greene County could not capitalize. Michael Powell stepped to the line for his own one-and-one to tie the game, but missed his first shot badly. Powell alertly ran down his own rebound only to lose the ball out of bounds.

Blount was fouled again and sank one of two, and after a Tiger rebound Cantey sank one of two to push the lead to 35-31 with just 29 seconds to play. But Powell responded with another basket and after Johnson hit one of two free throws, Greene County took over with 19 seconds to play and the chance to tie the with a three.

The Demopolis defense, however, forced the home team to pass under the basket, to a wide-open Crawford for what appeared to be a dunk that would cut the lead to one. Instead Crawford lost the handle on his way up and the ball caromed out of bounds with :06 left on the clock. This time it was Dontrell Miller sent to the line, but with just one free throw needed to ice the victory, Miller missed both, giving Greene County one last shot.

The inbounds pass went to Crawford along the right sideline, but the 6-8 senior was trapped by two Demopolis defenders and stepped on the sideline, giving the ball back to the visitors with 3 seconds left. This time Johnson hit one of two to finally cinch the win.

“We had so many chance to tie the game,” Greene County head coach Rodney Wesley said afterwards. “We had some unforced turnovers over the course of the game that hurt us, and we should have been up more after the first quarter. We wanted to get up enough to pull them out of that zone and into man-to-man. But they made some plays on defense and got the momentum … Demopolis did a great job. My hats off to them.”

Demopolis won despite finishing the game 7-of-19 from the foul line and going the entire first quarter without a field goal. Greene County burst out to a 9-2 advantage on a thunderous dunk from center Curtis Nickson with 2:10 to play in the opening quarter. But a Brian Taylor three and Dontrell Miller fast break early in the second period brought Demopolis within 9-7 and they would trail at the half by only three. Nickson finished the first half with 8 points, but did not score in the second half.

Cantey tied for the Demopolis scoring lead with 9 points and was named Tournament MVP. Miller scored 9 as well, followed by Johnson with 6, White with 5, Blount with 3, Taylor with 3, and Patrick Robertson with 2. Miller, Blount, and White were each named to the to the All-Tournament team.

Crawford finished with a game-high 10 points to lead Greene County. Nickson scored 8 points, Powell 7, Jones 4, and Kenn Reeves 4. Crawford, Powell, and Nickson were named All-Tournament. Jeremy Yates and James Bell of Livingston were also named All-Tournament.

Demopolis will host ASWA No. 10 UMS-Wright in Friday’s sub-regionals while Greene County must go on the road to No. 6 Escambia County. Both coaches say that their teams will have to put Monday’s game behind them.

“Our goals are still the same, Wesley says. “We’ll just have to accomplish them by a different route. We might have met this same team later, and now we’re just meeting them earlier.”

“We’ll a day off to rest, and then we’ll come back the next day and go to work,” Bell says. “We’ve reached one goal, but we’ve got more.”