Hinds AHS falls short in semis|Prep basketball

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

JACKSON — It was a move Keeslee Stewart has made a thousand times. Ball in his hands, an open lane to the basket, and the final seconds ticking off. The only problem was West Bolivar’s 6-foot-6 center Millaun Brown guarded the rim.

This time, Stewart’s last-second shot fell short and West Bolivar held on for a gut-churning 57-56 win in the Class 2A boys semifinal game Saturday morning at the Mississippi Coliseum.

“It didn’t fall our way,” Stewart said.

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The loss ends the Hinds AHS reign as 2A champions. Coach Keith Williams was proud of his team’s three-year run with a record of 95-8.

“It was amazing run. I don’t know how many wins it was. That’s something the kids keep up with,” Williams said.

Williams would have loved to have one more. Instead, it will be West Bolivar (24-8) who will play Baldwyn (30-4) in next Thursday’s 2A final. Hinds ends its season at 28-4.

The War Dawgs will have to dwell on a loss caused by missed free throws and turnovers. Hinds made just 9-of-18 from the free throw line and also committed 17 turnovers.

In contrast, West Bolivar was stellar from the line at least until the last 5.8 seconds. The Eagles had made 14-of-16 free throws until Mack Foster stepped to the line for a two-shot foul. The Eagles were up one at 57-56, but Foster missed both, opening the door for Stewart and the War Dawgs.

“I thought Cornelius (Harris) did a good job pushing the ball and getting it to Keeslee,” Williams said. “The shot didn’t fall our way. West Bolivar is a well-disciplined ballclub and they made plays. We had some small things get us. We missed free throws and had some unforced turnovers.”

West Bolivar coach Willie Earl Thomas, whose Eagles lost the 2A title to the War Dawgs last year, was relieved.

“It was rough because we were up against a tough opponent,” Thomas said. “That last play is the hardest play in basketball. We’re up one, you’ve got to play defense, but you can’t foul. You just got to hope he takes a bad shot.”

Foster thought he might have cost his team a shot at the finals.

“My heart dropped when I missed those two foul shots. Then he (Stewart) came up short and I was happy,” Foster said.

Despite four fouls, Stewart kept the War Dawgs afloat. He hit  a 3-pointer with six seconds left in the third quarter to break a 38-all tie. He later made a 3-point play and another 3-pointer to give Hinds a 51-47 lead with three minutes left.

Two baskets by King tied the game again. Trevis Thomas, who had 18 points and nine rebounds, gave Hinds its last lead at 53-51. Harris added a free throw, but the Eagles came back with a bucket from Wesley Lloyd and two free throws from Cord Walker with 44.3 seconds left to go up 55-54. Stewart missed a layup when he hit the back rim and the Eagles capitalized with two free throws from Foster for a 57-54 edge with 19.3 seconds left.

LaDarrian Robinson scored the War Dawgs’ last basket with 11.2 ticks left to make it 57-56. The Eagles avoided a pair of traps on the inbounds set and got the ball to Foster, who was fouled with 5.8 seconds left. Stewart ended with a game-best 22 points. Robinson added 11 points and Harris had 10 assists.

West Bolivar was led by Walker with 13 points while King had 12 and Foster 11.

Hinds accomplished its goal of speeding up the Eagles in the first half, taking a pair of 10-point leads thanks in part to West Bolivar’s cold early shooting.

Turnovers, however, were a problem as the War Dawgs turned it over 10 times in the half, including five in a four-minute stretch that allowed the Eagles to rally.

West Bolivar went on a big run to take its first lead since the opening minute on a basket by Foster at 27-25.

Hinds tied it on a Thomas bucket. With 18 seconds left in the half, Harris scored on a putback after a missed one-and-one free throw by Thomas for a 29-27 halftime lead.

Contact Jeff Byrd at jbyrd@vicksburgpost.com