February 22, 2014 8:00:17 PM
SALTILLO -- "DC" is a positive energy source for the West Point High School boys basketball team.
Now West Point coach Brad Cox has to encourage Demarius Calvert to stay on the court to help the Green Wave move forward.
After a first half in which foul trouble plagued Calvert and cold shooting slowed the Green Wave, West Point changed its voltage in the second half. Calvert supplied the direct current to the basket, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the third quarter to spark West Point to a 57-49 victory against Oxford in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2, District 1 title game at Saltillo High.
"He is 110 percent. He is a workhorse," West Point senior guard Tre Williams said of Calvert. "He is already undersized, so he has to play with that intensity to out-intensify his man. He is always 110 percent. He is our energy of the team."
The victory helped West Point (25-5) avenge two regular-season losses to Oxford. It also secured a first-round playoff game at home against Lake Cormorant at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Oxford, which lost to New Hope twice in the regular season, advanced to the championship game with a 67-50 victory against New Hope on Tuesday. The Chargers came in with a 53-48 victory against the Green Wave on Jan. 21 in Oxford and a 58-55 victory against them on Jan. 31 in West Point.
Williams led West Point with 18 points, while Calvert finished with 15, point guard A.J. Jones had 12 and Juan Davis added eight. Tied at 23 at halftime, West Point hits its first three shots of the second half -- a 3-pointer by Williams, a runner by Jones, and a basket inside by Calvert. The basket appeared to energize Calvert, who showcased his emotion each time he made a play to fire up his teammates. After missing two free throws with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter, Calvert scored inside. He then hit 1 of 2 free throws and added two more free throws following a steal by Anthony Craddeth.
West Point's ability to attack the rim and get to the free throw line enabled it to set up its pressure defense. Cox said the team's cold shooting and inability to get to the rim prevented it from being more aggressive on defense. The difference was evident in the second half, as West Point used its length and quickness to create turnovers. The defense led to offense and energized the Green Wave.
If West Point needed further prodding, Calvert was there to supply it. Whether it was a scream or a fist pump, Calvert punctuated the turning momentum. He hit two more free throws and then scored inside after the Green Wave forced a turnover on the inbounds play. His highlight reel came to an end with a dunk off a pass from Williams to give West Point a 42-30 lead with 2:32 to go in the quarter.
"Coach tells me all of the time in practice, 'DC, you have to keep your head. You can't let the refs get in your head. You have to play ball, go out and get the rebounds, pump fake on your shots, work on your free throws, and just take it to them,' " Calvert said. "I give it all to coach."
Oxford twice cut the lead to two points in the fourth quarter, but West Point held on. A layup in transition coupled with an intentional foul that gave the ball back to West Point allowed Williams to hit three free throws and kick the cushion back to 52-45 with 4:14 to play. A 3-pointer by Davis extended the advantage to 10 and gave West Point plenty of breathing room for the stretch run.
Oxford coach Drew Tyler said the outcome of Friday's game was different in part because the Chargers failed to defend the baseline, which was Calvert's domain, particularly in the third quarter. The 6-foot-3 center used his quickness to maneuver behind and into gaps Oxford's 3-2 and 2-3 zones and then exploded to the rim to make things happen.
Tyler also praised the play of Jones for moving the ball and creating chances for his teammates.
"In the first quarter, I think we picked up right where we left off from the New Hope game," Tyler said. "We shut down the lane and cut down the baseline dribble and penetration. We knew they were going to hit some open threes because they are so long and move it well, but we gave up the baseline late in the game, and that really hurt us. I really thought baseline penetration hurt us and mix us missing free throws, it is going to be tough to beat West Point, especially for a third time because their juices are flowing when they have the lead and there is a trophy at stake."
Cox felt the Green Wave made mistakes and missed free throws late in the first two meetings against Oxford. But he said the team's energy and intensity in the third quarter set the tone for the final 16 minutes and allowed it to overcome a few mistakes Friday.
Williams said the victory was sweet after losing twice in the regular season to Oxford. Two losses to Starkville and a loss to Provine are the only other blemishes on West Point's ledger. Williams said the Green Wave want to make sure that remains the case all the way to Jackson, the site of the MHSAA state championships.
"We are trying to get to the Big House," Williams said. "That has been our goal all year. Last year, we fell short, so this year we are trying to get there."
West Point will have a good chance of getting there if Calvert continues to provide emotion, intensity, and a direct current to the basket.
"That has been him all year," Cox said of Calvert. "He just plays 100 miles an hour. He is an undersized post player and his athletic ability helps him be so productive down in the post. He is the guy who gets that energy for us every game. He caught two quick fouls in the first quarter and we were able to keep playing and make a little run, so we let him sit to save him for the third (quarter). He came out in the third (quarter) with a vengeance."
Calvert said Cox told him at halftime he didn't have anything to lose in the third quarter, so he wanted him to "go for it" in that stanza. He said he put all of his effort into his play to make sure he didn't let his teammates down.
"I just kept working," Calvert said. "I love (attacking the rim). Coach tells me all of the time, 'Play team ball. We can't do it without the team. I thank my point guard, my shooting guard, all of them. They give me the ball, I give it back to them. We share the ball, we love each other, and we are going to keep it moving like this."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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