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|Ferriday holds off Episcopal|
Ferriday High senior Montrell Tennessee walked past the Ferriday bench during a third quarter time out Friday in the Trojans' Class 2A quarterfinal contest and walked underneath his own basket.
No, Tennessee was not disoriented or setting up early for the next play. He had lost a contact on an earlier play and was looking for it during a 30-second time out.
Tennessee was unable to find the contact. But he found something much more important late in the contest.
When teammate Matthew Smith missed the second of two free throws with Ferriday leading by three points with 24 seconds remaining, Tennessee went skyward, grabbing the rebound near the base line and throwing it back out to Smith, who was fouled and then nailed both free throws to give the Trojans a five-point lead with 17.4 seconds remaining.
"I knew if Matthew missed the second free throw they would have a chance to win," Tennessee said. "My teammate, Levier Pryor, told me to bang in there because he knew I could get the rebound. When he missed, I guided myself into the lane and got the ball. I knew if they fouled me I wasn't going to make the free throw because everything was blurry and I couldn't see. So I had to get it to the hot man, Matthew Smith."
Ferriday would add one more point after the two free throws to defeat Episcopal 42-36 and advance to the Top 28 Tournament for the first time in 20 years.
"We lost to a good team," said Episcopal coach Chris Beckham. "I saw them play once and their guards were better than what I saw before. I thought we did a good job of shutting down Tennessee and (Josh) Upchurch, but the Matthew Smith kid killed us."
"We played 32 minutes of going all out," said first-year Ferriday head coach K.G. Watkins. "Our philosophy was to take it eight minutes at a time. We wanted to score at least one more point in each quarter. We wanted to prevent them from getting a big run. Defense has been our stalwart all year. When we couldn't do anything else, our defense has been very good. Our kids wanted to play man-to-man. I don't think they have seen that many times before and I think they were frustrated. We went back to a zone near the end of the game and kept their big man (Kendall Thomas) from getting it inside."
The contest was a defensive struggle through the first half as Ferriday led 7-6 after one period and 15-9 at halftime.
"We couldn't get anything going from the outside," Beckham said. "Our three guards ended up going 3-for-22. That was probably our worst shooting performance of the year, but I give Ferriday some credit for that. They have a good team and a lot of athletes."
"Their big kids didn't want to play outside so we gave up the short shot around the perimeter," Watkins said. "They still tried to go inside. We played solid defense and didn't let them go to the board strong. Josh did a good job and Levier did a good job on Thomas. We felt we could run on them and whenever we got the opportunity we pushed the ball up the floor and used our transition game to get baskets."
Episcopal pulled to within 27-22 after three quarters and twice cut the Trojan lead down to a basket.
But Matthew Smith converted a 3-point play and put the Trojans up by six before Episcopal pulled back to within 29-26 with 6:55 remaining.
Ferriday led by six when a foul and technical foul for disputing the call gave the Knights three free throws and the ball back.
The Knights made only one free throw and were unable to score on their possession.
"I think that was the turning point for us as far as coming back," Beckham said. "We had a chance to tie it there and I think that would have given us some momentum."
Episcopal center Kendall Thomas cut the Trojan lead to 37-35 with 1:25 remaining.
Joshua Upchurch hit a free throw with 37.5 second remaining to put the Trojans up by three points.
Epsicopal High then turned the ball over on an unforced error and Smith was fouled. leading to Tennessee's late game heroics and Smith's nail-in-the-coffin free throws.
"The only thing that ran through my mind was the fundamentals we run through at practice," Smith said. "Keep your mind clear, take a deep breath and bend your knees."
"Free throws are just that, free," Watkins said. "You have to take advantage of that. That is something I have stressed my whole career. We get a lot of trips to the line because we are aggressive. You need to be able to knock those shots down."
Smith led Ferriday with 23 points, while Thomas and J.L. Lewis led Episcopal with 10 points each.
"I saw they way they were playing defense with their backs to the ball so I felt like I could get to the basket," Smith said. "It's my last year and I want to go out big."
Episcopal was 8-for-15 from the free throw line.
"That's the worst we have shot from the free throw line all season," Beckham said. "We left a lot of opportunities out there. But I credit Ferriday. That's a good team we played."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|