Wildcats overcome mistakes, get past Spring Hill in 62-50 Bi-District win
In their Bi-District contest against the Spring Hill Panthers on Monday night, the Paris Wildcats started the game off with purpose. The Wildcats raced out to a quick lead after some high-flying dunks from star junior Jaelyn Lee, a collective fast-paced transition attack from the team, and their effective pressure defense. However, Paris could not shake Spring Hill until the final buzzer sounded as the Wildcats recorded a 62-50 win at Emory Rains High School.
Paris flashed brilliance and made the game look easy for stretches throughout the contest. However, the team’s coach firmly believes the best is yet to come for his guys.
“I didn’t think we played that well. We just didn’t rebound the ball like we’ve been rebounding, and that hurt us,” Wildcats head basketball coach Billy Mack Steed said. “Defensively, I don’t think we played at the level we normally do — I don’t think we played that well.”
Lee nearly made the Rains gymnasium erupt with an impressive aerial display in the first quarter. The junior threw down a two-handed slam on the break with 6:13 left in the first quarter then Jeremerious Morgan tossed the ball off the backboard in transition, which Lee caught and slammed home with 4:32 left. At this point, Paris led Spring Hill 12-3 and the outcome seemed like a formality.
“We’ve just been growing our chemistry together,” Paris junior guard Garrius Savage said. “We like to get the rebounds, pass the ball to the open man, and get going on the fast breaks. We communicate a lot and are good with our help defense.”
The Wildcats used crisp ball movement and were diligent in attacking the basket to open the second quarter. Paris held a 24-8 lead after Morgan threw another successful lob to Lee on a set play with 4:41 left before halftime. However, the Panthers did not go quietly even when it seemed Paris was ready to run away with it. Spring Hill closed the gap in a hurry with a 12-3 run of their own to cut the deficit to 27-20, but Lee scored twice inside in the final minute to give Paris a 31-20 halftime lead.
The Wildcats needed all hands on deck in the second half and got contributions across the board on both ends of the court. The team’s familiarity with one another coupled with their own individual abilities proved to pay dividends in the second half of this contest.
“We really came together as a team through the season as we practiced and played with each other more,” Savage said. “We learned more about what everyone is capable of, how they practice, their weaknesses, and stuff like that. I think we’ve gotten better as the season has gone on.”
Spring Hill got the deficit to single digits a handful of times in the final two quarters, but Paris held a double-digit lead the majority of the second half en route to the 12-point playoff victory.
Lee scored a game-high 26 points to lead Paris while Savage poured in 13 points. Paris posts Braylon Mickens and Bubba Jones were impactful on offense and defense. Mickens scored 9 points while Jones added 6 points. Jones contributed with numerous quality hustle and effort plays, too. Bubba Gray and Morgan finished with 4 and 3 points, respectively, while Jaydon Hay had 1 point.
Moving forward, Steed is pleased with his 601st-career win his players helped him earn but is looking for his guys to crank it up a notch.
“We have to cut down the turnovers. We had some unforced errors, and we have to cut that out,” Steed said. “We also need to do a better job of blocking out and rebounding. Sometimes our shot selection in the second half wasn’t very good. We came down — one pass then a shot. Normally, we are trying to penetrate and kick out but I didn’t see that tonight. We need to play better.”
The Wildcats will play their Area Round game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against the Athens Hornets at Royse City High School. For more sports coverage, click here.