Photo: Braydon Hill and the Hokes Bluff boys basketball team lost to North Jackson, 50-44, in the Class 4A sub-regionals on Tuesday (Feb. 13). (Alex Chaney)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Class 4A, No. 9 Hokes Bluff saw its season come to an end with a heartbreaking 50-44 loss to North Jackson in the sub-regionals on Tuesday (Feb. 13) in Hokes Bluff.
The Eagles took a 44-38 lead after a Braydon Hill basket with 2:36 remaining, but that was the last time Hokes Bluff scored. The Chiefs closed the game on a 12-0 run led by guard Matt Loyd, who scored eight points in the final 2:30 of the game.
North Jackson moved on to the Northeast Regional Tournament this coming week at Jacksonville State University.
Early foul trouble between Landon Johnson and Hayden Lipscomb led to a chaotic first half for the Eagles, who missed several chances to pull away.
Johnson picked up his second foul with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter and did not play again for the remainder of the first half. Lipscomb was called for his second foul less than a minute into the second quarter, which left the Eagles without two of its best scorers. Sophomore guard Ashton Gulledge helped pick up some of the slack as he scored eight points off the bench in the first quarter.
The first quarter was a fast-paced shootout, and the two squads were tied at 16 heading into the second quarter. The Eagles slowed the tempo in the second without two of their best scorers and
carried a 23-22 lead into the locker room.
Hokes Bluff was much more effective offensively in the third quarter with its regular starters on the floor, and the Eagles turned to the 6’5 Lipscomb early for two easy buckets. But Lipscomb picked up his third foul less than three minutes into the quarter. He later was charged with his fourth foul and was not on the floor for most of the second half.
A three-pointer from sophomore guard Cole Contris gave the Eagles a 37-32 cushion heading into the fourth quarter, but the Chiefs refused to go away.
North Jackson guard Tyrus Jackson hit a three-point basket 12 seconds into the fourth, but Landon Johnson responded with five straight points in less than a minute to give Hokes Bluff a 42-35 lead.
The Eagle offense was stagnant and went scoreless for over three minutes, however, and the Chiefs slowly chipped away at the lead. Loyd scored seven straight points to give the visitors a 45-44 lead, and the Eagles couldn’t convert on the offensive end as North Jackson pulled away for the win.
Hokes Bluff coach Jeff Noah said foul trouble affected his lineups and kept his team from getting into a rhythm offensively.
“We played without Hayden (Lipscomb) pretty much the whole ballgame,” Noah said. “Foul trouble hurt us. I didn’t do a good job preparing my team to play. I’ve got to do a better job preparing and coaching.
“It was frustrating. We turned the ball over when we had layup opportunities. I don’t think we quit. I don’t think we executed very well. Give North Jackson credit. They could’ve folded a couple of times but they didn’t.”
Hill led the Eagles with 11 points, while Johnson scored 10 and grabbed six rebounds in his final game for Hokes Bluff. Lipscomb and Gulledge each scored eight.
Jackson led all scorers with 20 points, while Loyd and Melvin Hutchins scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Eagles finished the season with a 24-6 record, and Noah credited the six seniors on the roster for guiding the team to county and area championships.
“The six seniors were outstanding leaders, and that’s why we were able to accomplish what we accomplished this year,” he said. “Those six young men led by example on and off the floor.”