Thomasville Times Enterprise

January 7, 2014

TCC falls to Cairo in heartbreaker

Jamie Wachter

THOMASVILLE — Another game, another heartbreaking loss for the Thomas County Central boys basketball team.

Four days after falling to rival Thomasville following a pair of missed opportunities in the closing seconds, the Yellow Jackets experienced a case of deja vu Tuesday against rival Cairo. Two turnovers and a blocked shot in the final 45 seconds cost the Jackets a 47-46 loss.

“It’s kind of hard to explain right now,” Central coach Chad Ward said. “The kids fight hard, and it’s tough to explain.”

The Jackets led 46-43 after Matt Priest made a free throw with 1:19 left but the Syrupmakers answered as Cole Bennett scored just 11 seconds later to pull Cairo within one. Passing the ball around the perimeter against heavy Cairo pressure, the Jackets turned it over as Stacy Masten picked off an errant pass and went the length of the court for a layup with 39 seconds left to put Cairo back on top.

After almost turning it back over in the corner on the ensuing possession, the Jackets got a shot when Malik Brown caught a pass near the top of the  lane. But Masten got a hand on it and Demetrica Draggs hauled in the rebound with four seconds left before getting fouled.

Following a pair of missed free throws, Central had one last chance with 1.4 seconds left. However, a lob pass for Chris Jones glanced off the backboard and Masten, who paced Cairo with 11 points, came up with the  loose ball to end it.

“The kids they keep fighting and they’re executing,” Ward added. “They’re doing everything they should be doing.

“It’s just tough to explain right now.”

The Jackets got the lead midway through the fourth quarter after trailing 21-11 at halftime. Cairo scored the final 12 points of the first half to open up that lead as the Jackets didn’t score in the final 5:14 of the second quarter. However, after trading punches in the third, Central started a rally in the fourth as Malcolm McClenton, Joe Adams and Malik Brown scored on consecutive possessions to close within two. After a Deondre Cooksey basket, Brown hit a pair of free throws to put Central on top for the first time since the first half.

Chris Jones led Central with 12 points, all coming in the second half, while Austin Bryant added nine — including a pair of dunks — and 11 rebounds.

Central    49

Cairo girls    41

Tied at 22 at the half, Central scored the first seven points of the third quarter and eight of the final 10 in the period as it pulled away from the visiting Syrupmaids.

Holding Cairo to just six points in the quarter — Kevona Jones had a pair of buckets midway through the period on consecutive trips and Hydia Greene added a basket in the final minute — the key for the Jackets was on the defensive end.

“Basically, we improved on defense — communicating and hustling,” Central coach Deatrice Hose said. “Which is what we lacked in the beginning.”

Cairo turned it over eight times in the quarter as Central stretched its lead with Bryana Scott hitting an early 3-pointer off a Syrupmaid turnover and Jade Guyton scored late off the final mishandle. Scott scored nine of her 11 points in the third.

Ashley O’Neal and Kaeci Guyton paced Central with 12 points apiece, including baskets in the fourth that pushed the Jackets’ lead to a game-high 13 — 43-30 and 45-32.

“Hopefully we’ll learn from those mental mistakes that keep hurting us,” Hose said.

Cairo cut the lead down to seven points twice but couldn’t overcome the slow third quarter. Greene scored 11 to lead the Syrupmaids, who got 10 from Jones.