Flashes looking to extend their season in South State tournament

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019

St. Aloysius coach Eddie Pickle walked into his office Wednesday, opened his team’s season scorebook, and saw there was only one empty page left inside.

“I hope it’s not an omen,” he said with a nervous chuckle.

If it’s not an omen, then it’s at least a goal and a metaphor. The Flashes would love nothing more than to start a fresh chapter to this season rather than closing the book on it.

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St. Al kept its season alive with a thrilling, last-second 40-39 victory over Columbia Academy in the opening round of the MAIS Class AAA South State tournament on Monday. That put them into a quarterfinal matchup Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. against Silliman Institute.

Wednesday is another elimination round, but the winner advances to the semifinals and next week’s Class AAA state tournament. That means at least three more games, and three pages of a new scorebook to fill up.

The South State tournament is at Columbia Academy.

“Getting past (Wednesday) night is huge for us. I promised these kids when I came here that we were going to do everything we could to get a banner for the basketball team. If we don’t make it past tomorrow night, we don’t have a shot,” Pickle said.

Silliman received a first-round bye in the South State tournament by virtue of winning the District 5-AAA championship. Pickle, though, felt like it was a good matchup for the Flashes.

Silliman has a thin bench while St. Al has spent a large part of the season cultivating a deep one. Pickle is hopeful that it gives the Flashes an edge.

“They only have eight kids on the team. If our press doesn’t eat them up, we’ll have some issues. But, at this point, you can’t take anybody for granted,” Pickle said.

Prior to Monday, St. Al (15-9) had not won a state-level playoff game since 1970. It was the first time it had even been past the district tournament stage of the postseason since 2007.

To get there, it had to pull out every stop and knock off a stubborn Columbia Academy squad on its home floor. Neither team led by more than seven points and the game came down to the final seconds.

Alvin Brown was fouled along the baseline and hit both halves of a one-and-one free throw opportunity to tie the score at 39 with 10.8 seconds to go. Columbia then brought the ball up the floor and, just across halfcourt, Trinye Brown knocked it out of the dribbler’s hands.

Trinye Brown grabbed the loose ball, spun and flung it toward the back court as he was falling down. In the process he was bumped and a foul was called. Brown hit the first half of a one-and-one to put St. Al ahead 40-39, then intentionally missed the second. The clock started as soon as Columbia grabbed the rebound, and it was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer.

“We practice that every day,” Pickle said of the intentional miss.

Alvin Brown went 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter and finished with 22 points for St. Al, while Trinye Brown scored eight.

Just as important, Pickle said, was the defensive work done by guards Braxton Chewning and Chris Albert. They held Columbia’s Tate Duncan, who was averaging 35 points per game, to only nine — none of them in the fourth quarter.

“They told me he’d been averaging 35 a game, and I saw enough game film to believe it,” Pickle said. “We set up a defensive plan to shut him down and we held him to nine. Braxton Chewning and Chris Albert played a whale of a defensive game. I told Braxton before the game, ‘If you don’t score, I don’t care. You just keep (Duncan) under control.’ He did everything I asked him to do.”

• St. Aloysius vs. Silliman Institute
• Wednesday, 5:15 p.m., at Columbia Academy
• MAIS Class AAA South State tournament

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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