New Hope’s Tyler Stevenson (14) hits a jumper over the Corinth defense in a semifinal game of the MHSAA Class 4A State tournament Monday night. Photo by: Chris Todd/Special to The Dispatch
March 5, 2018 9:35:28 PM
JACKSON -- The message was simple.
Tyler Stevenson didn't raise his voice or stomp his foot on the floor. Instead, he looked at teammate Andrew Junkin with four minutes left in the third quarter and said, "We got to play."
After trailing by one point at halftime, New Hope committed three turnovers in the first part of the third quarter to fall behind by six points. Stevenson could sense the game was turning.
"I just felt like we had to keep fighting," Stevenson said. "IF we kept fighting we could have put ourselves back into the ballgame. I told them it wasn't over yet. We weren't going to quit or back down. None of that."
Stevenson did more than his part to back up his words. Unfortunately, the New Hope High School boys' basketball team didn't have an answer for JonDarius Warren and Axavius Stricklen.
Warren and Stricklen combined for 38 points Monday night to lead Corinth to a 63-46 victory in the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State tournament at Mississippi Coliseum.
Corinth (23-9) will play Raymond or Gentry in the Class 4A championship game at 8 p.m. Thursday. Raymond beat Leake Central for the 2017 Class 4A State title.
New Hope ended its season at 23-8.
"I thought we did a good job coming out in the first quarter in establishing some things, but then we just let it get away in the second quarter and especially in the third quarter," New Hope coach Drew McBrayer said. "The third quarter coming out of the locker room we didn't have the same energy we have had all year. It is disappointing in this type of game, in this type of environment, but sometimes that happens. We didn't make enough plays, especially on the defensive end."
Corinth used a 23-8 third quarter run to seize the momentum and take a 45-29 lead entering the fourth quarter. Warren had nine points and Dontavious Sheffield (10 points) had six in the quarter as the Warriors used their quickness on defense to force turnovers and speed the Trojans up.
Corinth shot only 39.7 percent (23-for-58) from the field, but it forced 15 turnovers and had 14 offensive rebounds. The Warriors committed only seven turnovers. Sheffield also had four steals, while Warren and Stricklen had three.
"Their pressure bothered us," McBrayer said. "Their pressure didn't let us get into the things we wanted to get into and we let it bother us."
Stevenson scored all 17 of New Hope's points in the fourth quarter. But the Trojans couldn't convert chances to cut deeper into the lead. Stevenson scored inside with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining to trim the deficit to 53-43, but he missed the free throw that would have completed a three-point play. He missed two more free throws on the ensuing possession. Kyree Fields, who was 3-for-17 from the field, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:31 to go, but by then time had nearly run out on New Hope's season.
"I thought Tyler did a great job tonight," McBrayer said. "He carried us. He put us on his back and carried us, but we couldn't make enough plays."
McBrayer said the Trojans had a good few days of practice and he thought the players would be ready to go. He said the performance wasn't terrible, but the Trojans couldn't convert point-blank opportunities when they needed to aid their comeback.
Stevenson said the turnovers sapped the Trojans' confidence. He said New Hope felt good coming out for the third quarter, but he said it was disappointing that the season didn't end like everyone wanted it to.
"I guess we just started losing our composure under the pressure," Stevenson said. "We started feeling pressure, and I think that started it.
"I just know my team needed me not to quit, and I didn't quit. They depended on me."
McBrayer credited all of the seniors for their contributions in a great season that ended too soon.
Andrew Junkin had six points, 14 rebounds, six blocked shots for New Hope.
"It has been a pleasure coaching all of them, and I just told them that in the locker room," McBrayer said. "They come to work. They work hard every day. They have developed themselves into pretty good basketball players. That is just a testament to them and how hard they work."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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