E.A. Sports Today

Saks shuts down No. 2 White Plains

Winners use sharp shooting, strong defense to laugh in the face of County Tournament seedings

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The happy players and coaches on the Saks basketball team insisted they did not use the results of Sunday’s Calhoun County Tournament seeding meeting for motivation Tuesday night. The same couldn’t be said for their cheering section.

With just over a minute left in a game their Wildcats would take from White Plains 62-45, the Saks student section broke into a chant that echoed all the way back into the Choccolocco Valley.

Over-rated … clap, clap, clap-clap-clap, they howled and stomped during a dead ball.

And, know what? White Plains coach Chris Randall had no defense. Actually, Saks had it all.

“I thought the toughest team won,” Randall said. “I completely agree with their fans, the ‘Overrated’ cheer. I one-hundred percent agree with their fans.

“You can use that motivation if they want to. I saw them play. I knew how good they were. Good for them. If that’s the bullet you have in your gun, good for you. I knew Saks was good.”

The voters didn’t think that good, comparatively. They installed second-ranked White Plains, with its 14-3 overall record at the time and eight county wins – No. 2 and Saks, at 11-2 and 5-1 in the county, No. 5 for the upcoming County event.

In the interest of full disclosure, Randall said he put Saks third on his ballot and his own team fifth and said after the results were tallied and disclosed “never in my wildest dream” would he have thought he’d be the No. 2.

But to a man, the Saks Wildcats said they had no extra motivation to prove a point. The more important issue was gaining control of their area. It was just ironic these teams were playing each other in their first games since that seeding meeting. Now, Saks holds its destiny in its hands.

“We didn’t really pay attention to it,” Coleman said. “It’s just a seeding. We talked about it, but our coaches were like it’s just a seeding, it really isn’t into anything and we just need to worry about the area right now.”

Far above any emotional component, Saks won this game behind a barrage of 10 3-pointers – two by Jaylen Britt and four each by Darion Coleman and Quen Williams — and undeniably its best defensive effort of the season.

It held White Plains to only two field goals in the final 11 minutes of the game after the visitors took a 35-33 lead and zero 2s after the 3:33 mark of the third quarter. Saks senior Monty Young, the East Alabama Sports Today Calhoun County Defensive Player of the Year in football, playing basically an all-day one-on-one inside with Nathan Gilbert, held the Wildcats’ agile post scoreless in the first half and to five points all game.

In Gilbert’s defense, the senior was playing with a bruised sternum that had been bothering him since the team’s holiday trip to Florida and eventually forced him from this game in the fourth quarter. He motioned coming out of the dressing room after a lengthy post-game meeting he was feeling all right.

“I thought tonight we probably guarded as hard and as good as we have all year,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “They’re a pretty good offensive team and we got down and got some stops. They missed some shots they probably normally make, but I thought we played as good tonight as we have all year – and it was a good night to do it on.

“We struggled in some games to where we’d play good teams and we’d been too impatient on offense and we haven’t guarded tough defensively, but tonight I thought we did a pretty good job on both ends.”

Miller explained the secret to Young’s success on Gilbert was playing good post defense with his feet. Young’s strategy was simply to front his man and if he couldn’t get around him stick a hand in the passing lane. Gilbert didn’t score his first points until midway through the third quarter; he had one basket and was 3 of 5 from the free throw line.

“He’s a real good post player, probably the best I’ll ever play against in this county, but I knew if I could slow him down it would help out a lot,” Young said.

There were several times Saks looked on the verge of putting White Plains away, but each time the visitors battled back, usually behind the stroke of Jerod Guthrie.

Michael McGuirk’s 3-pointer put White Plains up 35-33 with about three minutes left in the third quarter, only to have what followed turn the tide.

Coleman hit a 3-pointer to put Saks back on top. At the same time, Murphy Doss was called for a foul away from the ball helping Saks retain possession. Moments later, Coleman drained another 3-pointer and Saks started pulling away.

“At first, I didn’t really know what the foul was,” he said. “I was still trying to figure it, but I saw we had the ball again, so I just tried it again.”

Coleman led all scorers with 18 points. Williams and Makel Taylor had 14 apiece.

“We played really good,” Coleman said. “I’m surprised how good we played.”

And there was no artificial motivation needed.

Saks 62, White Plains 45

WHITE PLAINS (14-4) – Jerod Guthrie 5 1-3 14, Dillon Greewood 0 0-0 0, Kevin Carr 2 0-0 6, Eli Hightower 0 0-0 0, Michael McGuirk 4 0-0 10, Jackson Guthrie 0 2-2 2, Quez Wyatt 0 0-0 0, Lawrence Jackson 0 0-1 0, Nathan Gilbert 1 3-5 5, Murphy Doss 3 2-2 8. Totals 15 8-13 45.

SAKS (12-2) – Makel Taylor 5 4-6 14, Darion Coleman 7 0-2 18, Devin Harris 1 2-4 4, Jaylen Britt 2 0-0 6, Dauvientae Booker 0 0-0 0, Monty Young 0 1-2 1, Quen Williams 5 3-4 14, Demetrius Powell 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 10-20 62.

White Plains 6 17 16 6 — 45
Saks 13 14 17 18 — 62

3-point goals: White Plains 7 (Guthrie 3, Carr 2, McGuirk 2); Saks 10 (Coleman 4, Britt 2, Williams 4). Total fouls: White Plains 17, Saks 15. Fouled out: Booker.

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