E.A. Sports Today

White Plains wins ‘ugly’ thriller

Wildcats edge Alexandria 47-45 without making a field goal in the fourth quarter

White Plains' Jerod Guthrie (C) lunges between Alexandria's A.J. Martin (13) and Jamal Tucker for a loose ball during Thursday's game. On the cover, the Wildcats celebrate getting past the Valley Cubs. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

White Plains’ Jerod Guthrie (C) lunges between Alexandria’s A.J. Martin (13) and Jamal Tucker for a loose ball during Thursday’s game. On the cover, the Wildcats celebrate getting past the Valley Cubs. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – When the brackets were announced and Chris Randall saw the potential gauntlet his White Plains basketball team would have to traverse to win the Calhoun County Tournament he knew the order was tall.

If the next two games are anything like the first one he might not have any nerves – or hair – left.

The White Plains-Alexandria tournament quarterfinal Thursday was as competitive as advertised. The two county heavyweights exchanged blows all the way to the end with the third-seeded Wildcats ultimately prevailing 47-45.

The projected route to the championship from here was expected to go through No. 2 Anniston — in Friday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal — and No. 1 Sacred Heart. Jerod Guthrie likened it favorably to the road through the regionals.

“To be honest with you, I hadn’t thought about anybody but Alexandria; you just really can’t,” Randall said. “You can’t think about Game 2 until you get Game 1 behind you and, to be honest, I had to double-check to see who we played the winner of (next) — I was that focused on Alexandria. Jimmy V (Valvano) said you survive and advance and that’s what we did.

“I can see everybody else looking at that (bracket), but I’m being 100 percent honest, I hadn’t looked past Alexandria. To win the tournament you’re going to have to win three tough games, we knew that, but as far as who, we didn’t look past anybody. We’re glad to get away with one.”

Guthrie led the Wildcats with 18 points and had an ugly gash over his left eye — courtesy of a collision with teammate Macey Carr in the post-game celebration — for his trouble.

The gash wasn’t as ugly as the game, though.

The Wildcats won despite not making a field goal in the fourth quarter, making only three baskets in the second half and missing a frustratingly number of layups throughout the game. The difference was their half-court man defense contesting the Valley Cubs’ shot.

“It’s just a good thing we weren’t painting, it’s a good thing we were counting, because it was mighty ugly,” Randall said. “I don’t see how you win a game and not make a field goal in the fourth quarter. If you do that, you better be guarding good. We were guarding really good.”

“It was probably one of the ugliest wins I’ve been a part of, but it felt good to pull it out in the end,” said Eli Hightower. “It was pretty stressful.”

The Wildcats led by 14 in the third quarter, but by the end of the game they were fighting for their tournament lives. Alexandria never led after 6-5, but the Valley Cubs sure made it interesting after getting within two with 4:40 to play.

Hightower gave White Plains a 47-45 lead with the second of two free throws with 25.9 seconds left. Alexandria’s Riley Shaw spotted up for a go-ahead 3 from the left corner with 6.3 seconds left, but missed the mark.

“It was a good shot,” Shaw said. “Caleb (Young) made a good pass; I just didn’t hit it. Our second group did a good job getting us back into the game. We just didn’t hit the shots that won the game at the end.”

The scramble for the rebound went out of bounds to White Plains. Lawrence Jackson was fouled at mid-court on the inbounds, but missed the free throw. The Valley Cubs were set to put the ball back in play with less than three seconds left, but Young couldn’t control the inbounds pass and the clock ran out on them.

“We won that game with our defense,” Guthrie said. “Everybody stepped up on defense and made it happen.

“We’re probably going to have to play better than we did today to win the game tomorrow and then probably better than the game tomorrow to beat Sacred Heart. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be in it.”

Michael McGuirk had eight points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots for White Plains.

Young led Alexandria, probably underseeded at No. 6, with 11 points. Luke Tucker had nine.

White Plains 47, Alexandria 45

ALEXANDRIA – Dalton Dodd 3 1-2 8, Luke Tucker 3 3-6 9, Caleb Young 5 0-0 11, Jamal Tucker 1 1-7 5, Gerald Murphy 1 2-2 4, Marcus Swink 2 0-0 4, Riley Shaw 2 0-0 6, Austin Taylor 0 0-0 0, A.J. Martin 0 0-2 0. Totals 17 7-17 45.

WHITE PLAINS – Jerod Guthrie 5 4-5 18, Kevin Carr 1 2-2 3, Eli Hightower 1 3-4 5, Michael McGuirk 2 2-4 8, Quez Wyatt 0 0-0 0, Lawrence Jackson 2 1-3 6, Macey Carr 1 0-0 2, Murphy Doss 2 0-0 4. Totals 14 12-18 47.

Alexandria 6 14 11 14 — 45
White Plains 12 16 12 7 — 47

3-point goals: Alexandria 4 (Shaw 2, Dodd, Young); White Plains 7 (Guthrie 4, McGuirk 2, Jackson). Rebounds: Alexandria 41 (Young 7, Swink 7); White Plains 42 (McGuirk 9, M. Carr 7). Fouled out: Martin. Total fouls: Alexandria 15, White Plains 15.

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