Gaston can’t catch up to Lafayette in regional championship

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Photo: Gaston High’s Devon Green (4) scores two of his game-high 16 points as Lafayette’s Jordan Johnson (2) and Deaundra Vines (3) looks on during the Bulldogs’ 54-47 loss on the Class 2A Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at Jacksonville State. (Courtesy of Alex Chaney) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

The Gaston High boys basketball team’s stellar postseason run ended a game shy of Birmingham.
The Bulldogs went toe to toe with second-ranked Lafayette for most of the Class 2A finals at the Northeast Regional boys basketball tournament, but Gaston ultimately fell short of an Elite Eight appearance with a 54-47 loss on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at Jacksonville State.
Trailing by eight points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs used a 13-8 stretch to pull within 50-47 after Mica Merriman’s put-back cut the deficit to 50-47 with 48 seconds left.
Gaston would get no closer, however, as a pair of untimely turnovers resulted in Jordan Johnson’s two free throws at 39.3 and DeAundra Vines’ layup with 14 seconds on the clock.
Merriman’s basket wound up as the final score of the game for the Bulldogs, who ended the season with a 24-7 record.
“We knew that Lafayette was going to be tough, but I also knew my guys were going to fight,” said Gaston head coach Michael Merriman. “Our kids had every reason to quit all throughout the game, and they didn’t, and as a coach that makes me really proud. It’s not the outcome we wanted, and I should have done a better part of preparing them. So this one’s one me. But give credit to Lafayette; they have some really good players and are well-coached. They’re right up there with the most athletic teams we’ve faced this year.”
Gaston’s largest and final lead of the game at 6-2 came at 5:55 of the first quarter on Devon Green’s layup. Lafayette took a 14-8 advantage into the second period. Green’s basket at 5:57 kept the Bulldogs within single digits at 19-10, but Lafayette closed out the first half leading 30-20.
A pair of three-point baskets from Merriman during the third frame helped keep Gas-ton in the game, and Adonis Jones’ jump shot at the 1:15 mark pulled the Bulldogs within 42-24 after 24 minutes.
Gaston continued to chip away in the fourth. Three straight layups by Green narrowed the gap to 47-40 with 5:13 left in the game, while a basket from Kodie Bogle and a three-pointer from Jones trimmed Lafayette’s lead to 49-50 at 1:38.
But the Bulldogs were outscored 5 to 2 from that point on, and a pair of lost possessions in the final 30 seconds helped relegate Gaston to regional runner-up.
Green paced the Bulldogs with 16 points along with nine rebounds. Merriman contributed 14 points and six boards, while Bogle finished with five points and 13 rebounds.
Vimes and VaDerrian Story both scored 20 points, Followed by Bran Story with 13 and Johnson with 11.
Merriman and Green made the All-Tournament team.
“The first job that I have for myself as a coach is to raise great young men,” said Michael Merriman. “And as a man, you have to be tough mentally and learn how to keep fighting and keep swinging. Our guys did that today just like they’ve done all year. If I had a part in helping achieve that part of being a man, that makes this whole season worth it.
“We honestly believed that we had a chance to win a state championship this year, and I feel like that’s our goal next year. We lost to a team like Lafayette by seven points, so I don’t think it’s farfetched to think about state championships in this program.”
Green and Mica Merriman shared their thoughts about the Bulldogs being the last team standing this season in Etowah County boys basketball.
“People always doubt us and look down us and say that we’re one of the worst team in the county, and I feel like we proved them wrong,” said Mica Merriman. “That shows in the work we put in to become one of the best [teams] around here.”
“At the beginning of the season, everybody said we were the worst [team] in the county,” said Green. “When we got [to the regional tournament], everybody said that we didn’t belong and that it was a fluke. Well, I guess we proved everybody wrong.”

 

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