By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Jay Whiteside’s 3-pointer basket with three seconds left gave Etowah High a 69-68 victory over Arab in a Class 5A subregional boys basketball game on Friday (Feb. 14) in Attalla.
The win gave Blue Devils (22-3) a berth in the Northeast Regional Tournament this week at Jacksonville State. Etowah plays No. 8 Ramsay in a semifinal game on Wednesday (Feb. 19).
Trailing by eight points at halftime, the Blue Devils drew within two points midway through the third quarter. The Knights took a five-point lead into the fourth period.
“It was just one of those games where we had to grind it out,” said Etowah head coach James Graves. “We never thought that we were out of it. We got into our full-court press and got a few turnovers.”
Down by two points with seven seconds left and no timeouts, Graves had to call out the game-winning play on the fly.
“We ran the inbounds play for Jay, who probably has been out best 3-point shooter all year. We screened it perfectly and made a good pass, and Jay got a good look at the top of the key and knocked it down. When he caught and had a good look, I raised my hands up, because I knew it was going in.”
With the game clock running and Arab out of timeouts, the Knights attempted a quick inbounds pass. Trey Brown came up with a steal to secure the victory.
“Our kids did what they’ve done all year long, which is fight, and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Graves.”
It will be Etowah’s first trip to the regional tournament since 2006. Graves also coached that team and the 2005 squad, which was the first Blue Devil team to make it to JSU.
“This is a special group of kids who have worked hard all year and done everything I’ve asked them to do,” he said. “It’s just a pleasure to coach them.”
Brown finished with a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds. Whiteside and Courtland Harris each scored 13 points, followed by Jordan Powell with 10.
Joe Crowder paced Arab with 40 points.
“Getting to regionals is not only great for our kids; it’s great for our students and faculty and parents and fans,” said Graves. “The City of Attalla has supported us all year and been to our games screaming their lungs out. We had a packed house at this game and at the area tournament. It was a great atmosphere, and we really appreciate that support for our kids from the community.