Pelham’s Trevon White (25) shoots over Early County’s Javarious Thornton (1) Saturday night at Pelham High School. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
PELHAM — Pelham High School boys basketball coach Laron Smith isn’t one for using the traditional coaches cliche’.
But he told his Hornets that the season wasn’t over after Saturday night’s 70-46 victory over Early County, which clinched the regular-season Region 1-AA title for the Hornets, earning them the top seed in the region tournament in two weeks as well as a berth in the state tourney.
“These guys have to finish the drill,” Smith said of his Hornets, who still have three region games left to play this week.
“We have six seniors on this team. I told them after this year, you don’t get another chance. Once the story is written, you don’t get a chance to rewrite it.”
The Hornets (17-3, 10-0 Region 1-AA) made sure at least Saturday night’s chapter didn’t need rewriting, shaking off a sluggish first half to build double-figure leads throughout most of the second half.
After the two traded leads in the first half, Pelham managed to build a 34-27 lead at halftime. Then the Hornets went wild in the early seconds of the second half, using a quick 3-pointer from Duntrez Moore from the right corner, then a steal and a quick basket gave them a 39-27 lead.
Early County never seemed to rebound afterward.
“Even though we are young, we’ve got to mature,” Early boys coach Randy Isom said. “Just because you make a mistake, you don’t come back the next time and make the same mistake again. Our biggest downfall is that because we are young, we have not learned to develop a killer-instinct.”
The Hornets got a strong scoring night from a trio of players, including Darrius Spence who led the way with 15 points. Shaquille Crimley and Moore finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
One player Smith did not want to overlook was Jaquan Green, who finished with just two points but dished out nine assists, helping attribute to Pelham’s success on offense.
“This was a good game … all of our team played hard,” Green said. “We turned up the intensity in the second half. We knew we had to handle our business.”
It was the 13th straight victory for the Hornets, who continue to play well at the right time. Part of Pelham’s success has been its strong bench play.
“We’re still able to play 10 guys,” Smith said. “A lot of guys are getting minutes and our guys have accepted that. The second group has come in and given us leads as well as extended leads for us.”
Early County (7-13, 7-4), which could have solidified its second-place position in the region standings, was led by Qubilah Hall’s 18 points. The Bobcats got nine from Dentarious Thornton and seven from Javarious Thornton.
“I told our guys it’s not the end of the year,” Isom said. “We’ll see these same teams in the region tournament. It’s more mental than anything with us. If we can get some toughness, I believe we can play with anybody.”