February 11, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The redemption of the West Point High School boys basketball season began Tuesday night at New Hope High School.
Junior Michael Carr led a congregation of Green Wave players who intend to make a statement in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A, Region 4 Tournament.
Carr and the Green Wave made an impressive first impression Tuesday night. Carr scored a team-high 22 points to lead five players in double figures in an 80-55 victory against Caledonia.
With the victory, West Point advances to play top-seeded Noxubee County at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The winner of that game will take on the winner of Thursday''s New Hope-West Lauderdale game at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
West Point took a step closer to reaching that game by avenging a 76-56 loss to Caledonia. In that game, Rickey McCollum torched the Green Wave for 43 points.
On Tuesday, though, West Point never allowed McCollum (10 points) to get going. Curtis Fluker did have 26 points, mostly on 3-pointers from the left win, but the Green Wave''s defense did its job.
West Point used a 15-2 run in the first quarter that spanned 3 minutes, 12 seconds to turn a 7-all tie into a 22-9 lead that was never slipped below five points the rest of the game.
"It''s time for us to redeem ourselves," Carr said. "We had a rough regular season. Our team is going to work twice as hard and we have the heart to win the game. If we work twice as hard, we have a chance to redeem ourselves."
Carr used Florida quarterback Tim Tebow when he talked about how hard West Point was going to work to erase the memory of its regular season.
This past season, Tebow apologized to Florida fans after a loss to Ole Miss. He said the Gators were going to re-dedicate themselves and not allow the loss to ruin their season.
Carr hopes his comments can be as effective as Tebow''s.
"We had so many ups and downs," Carr said. "Sometimes it would be our fault, and sometimes we would fight amongst ourselves. It was a frustrating season. It is going to redeem us. Sometimes you have to go through to get two. The Lord allowed to go through to get two. We have to work twice as hard as anybody else."
West Point''s defense set the tone. The Green Wave forced four turnovers and scored six points in the game-changing run. They ball-hawked the Confederates, overplayed the passing lanes, and then crashed in on the offensive end for easy layups.
West Point coach Jarvis Varnado said the team he saw Tuesday night is the one that has the potential to make noise.
"We weren''t focused that night," Varnado said, referring to the 20-point loss to Caledonia. "We just didn''t play good as a team. Like I have told them all year, we have two teams. If I have the team that come out like this -- focused and ready to play ball -- we do a great job. If we have the other team come out and not working together, that''s when we have problems."
West Point cruised despite playing without senior Curtis Hall, who is no longer eligible to play with the team. The Green Wave also had Tez Calvert at less than 100 percent due to the flu.
But West Point didn''t struggle.
Carr''s smooth play from behind the 3-point line and at the point sparked his teammates. After an injury-plagued season on the football field, Carr doesn''t want to waste another moment on the basketball court. He said the Green Wave can beat anyone when they play together.
That theory will be tested Thursday.
"This is not scaring us at all," Carr said. "Anything they have coming for us, we''ll be ready for it. They''re good, but if we work hard and play as a team, we cannot be beat."
Garry Hughes (16 points) and Vontarius Dora, Laquetos Robinson, and Tim Valliant (11) also scored in double figures for West Point, which lost to Noxubee County by one point and beat the Tigers in the regular season.
Varnado hopes his players have the same sense of urgency Thursday.
"I challenged the guys. I said, ''Look, we lose, we go home, and I can go watch my son play,'' " Varnado said. "If we win, I can say I can come see you play when I can. The big guys weren''t ready to hang their uniforms up and they started to play as a team.
"They did something tonight, and they did it as a team. When we play good as a team we win."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.