Wildcats stomp Athens by 51 to claim Area Round crown
Head coach Billy Mack Steed felt like his Paris Wildcats struggled to the finish line in some respects in their 62-50 Bi-District win over Spring Hill on Monday night at Emory Rains High School. In Paris’ second playoff game Wednesday night at Royse City High School against the Athens Hornets, it was a completely different script and story as the Wildcats steamrolled the Hornets in an 85-34 blowout victory.
The Wildcats’ high level of execution coupled with providing scoring opportunities for 6-foot-6 junior Jaelyn Lee and the Paris posts to dominate early proved a successful formula that overwhelmed Athens from the opening tip.
“You can’t even compare this game to the last game,” Steed said. “Defensively, we were all over the floor. We were quick to the ball, quick to help out, and quick to recover. If we got our hands on the ball, we pushed it up the floor hard. If we didn’t have it on the break, we did a nice job of executing in the half court and getting good looks a foot away from the basket. For us to play bad last time but to play this well in this game, I’m really proud of our kids. I think they played great.”
Starting fast was a key point of focus for Paris as it entered this Area Round contest against Athens. The Wildcats nearly let all of their double-digit lead disappear against Spring Hill on several occasions in the Bi-District round, but Paris pounded the rock early and often to ensure there would be no encore from its last outing.
“It was very big because against Spring Hill, we weren’t focused at all coming off that snow storm we had,” Lee said. “We weren’t focused and we were tired, but we just came in locked into this game and took care of business from the start.”
Junior guard Garrius Savage swished a 3-pointer just eight seconds into the contest to put Paris ahead for good at 3-0 in the wire-to-wire victory. The Wildcats outscored Athens 17-5 in the first frame, which was capped off by layups from Savage and senior post Jaydon Hay in the closing seconds.
In the second quarter, Lee imposed his will on the game. He opened the second frame with an impressive and athletic Euro Step layup through traffic with 6:41 left in the quarter. Lee drew a foul and swished the ensuing free throw then connected on another three-point play with 6:24 left to increase the lead to 25-5. After that, he canned a long two with 5:10 left in response to an Athens 3-pointer to put the score at 27-8. The rout was on and along with Lee’s skills on full display, the contributions across the board provided the perfect formula for a dominant start to this game.
“The thing about Jaelyn is that he can get his shot at any time, and it’s hard to stop someone like that,” Steed said. “He played well and I think Braylon Mickens did a good job early of getting us off to a quick start by getting some offensive rebounds and put backs. It was really a team effort. Jaelyn Lee is always going to be spotlighted because he is so talented, but I thought this was a really good team effort by us.”
While Paris was blazing the nets on offense the Wildcats clamped up on defense. The Wildcats held Athens to only 15 points at halftime while Paris eclipsed 40 points. Along with scoring the basketball at a high clip, the Wildcats sustained their insurmountable lead through their suffocating defense, which starts in the painted area.
“On defense, he (Coach Steed) just told us to stop them from getting into the paint,” Lee said, with a chuckle. “I can’t think of anything else other than him telling us to control the paint.”
Paris’ lead never dipped below 20 points in the second half as it cruised to an impressive 51-point win over Athens. The Wildcats scored 20 or more points in each of the final three quarters while Athens put together just two double-digit scoring quarters.
Lee led all scorers with 23 points while Micah Jenkins was a big spark for Paris with 15 points off the bench. Savage added 13 points while K.D. Washington provided quality perimeter defense to go with his 8 points. Jeremerious Morgan chipped in with 7 points while Mickens had 6 points and pulled down several rebounds. Senior posts Hay and Troy Jones combined for 9 points while Bubba Gray and T. Tucker poured in 2 points apiece.
For Paris, using any amount of time to give reserves repetitions and increase the team’s overall fluidity on the court has been paramount due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. With that, the level of execution means that much more to Steed as his team marches on.
“Those players need all the reps we can get because of the covid situation and how many games we lost to covid during the regular season,” Steed said. “We’ve still only played 21 or 22 games all year, which is not a lot in basketball. Like I said, though, I’m really proud of how everyone executed tonight.”
The Wildcats will face the Lindale Eagles in the Regional Quarterfinals with matchup details to be announced. For more sports coverage, click here.
TEAM Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 F
Paris 17 24 24 20 85
Athens 5 10 11 8 34
Paris scorers: J. Lee, 23; M. Jenkins, 15; G. Savage, 13; K. Washington, 8; J. Morgan, 7; B. Mickens, 6; J. Hay, 5; T. Jones, 4; B. Gray, 2; T. Tucker, 2
Athens scorers: C. Woodard, 11; J. Crane, 10; J. Hemphill, 4; D. Killingsworth, 4; B. Barker, 2; J. Ray, 2; C. Clay, 1
Paris FGM: J. Lee, 9; M. Jenkins, 5; G. Savage, 5; B. Mickens, 3; J.Morgan, 3; J. Hay, 2; T. Jones, 2; K. Washington, 2; B. Gray, 1; T. Tucker, 1
Athens FGM: C. Woodard, 4; J. Crane, 3; J. Hemphill, 2; D. Killingsworth, 2; B. Barker, 1; J. Ray, 1
Paris 3PFGM: M. Jenkins, 3; J. Hay, 1; J. Lee, 1; J. Morgan, 1; G. Savage, 1; K. Washington, 1
Athens 3PFGM: J. Crane, 1
Paris FT: 11-16; J. Lee, 4-7; K. Washington, 3-5; M. Jenkins, 2-2; G. Savage, 2-2
Athens FT: 7-14; C. Woodard, 5-7; C. Clay, 1-2; J. Crane, 1-4; J. Ray, 0-1