Click on the screen on this page to see highlights from Thursday morning's state quarterfinal game.
By Paul Keane
JACKSON — Ridgeland made its only successful three-point attempt count the most as Trae Thompson sank the trey with two seconds left to sink Wayne County High School’s boys basketball season with a heartbreaking 29-27 win here Tuesday night in the Class 5A State Semifinals.
The loss ends the War Eagles’ season at 19-14. Ridgeland moves on to play Callaway in Friday night’s state title contest.
“I can’t explain the emotions right now,” said WCHS Head Coach Kendrick Davis. “It is really hard to lose on a last-second shot like that.
“But you have to take your hats off to Ridgeland because they had a great defensive scheme. We also missed a lot of layups and easy shots.”
The two teams battled back and forth before Thompson hit his game-winning shot. The War Eagles were granted a timeout and officials put 1.6 seconds back on the clock. One final defensive stand by the Titans, this time a steal at midcourt, ended what had become a special season for the War Eagles.
“I am so proud of these guys,” Davis said. “They have fought so hard all season long. In January when we were struggling, no one gave us a chance to making a run and we ended up reaching the Final Four. I’m just so proud of this team.”
In one of the lowest scoring first halves in recent WCHS memory, neither team could find the bucket in a slow-paced game that featured a total of 19 points between the first two teams in the first 16 minutes of action.
In the first quarter, the War Eagles missed 4-of-6 free throws, all from Tevin Smith, while Reggie Stewart hit a three-pointer and RaMeik Wallace added a short jumper to account for the seven WCHS points in the opening stanza.
The Titans countered with buckets from Trae Thompson and KeyShaun Simmons as the War Eagles took a 7-4 lead into the second quarter of action.
In that opening period of play, the Titans held a 9-6 rebounding advantage but the War Eagles forced three RHS turnovers while committing none of their own.
The second quarter started off strong for the Titans as Simmons hit a pair of buckets to start a 4-0 run and make it 8-7 Ridgeland with 7:04 left in the half. Wallace answered with a dunk at the 3:37 mark, but it was the only points of the period for WCHS. John Price scored on a put-back with 18 seconds left to stake the Titans to a 10-9 advantage at the intermission.
The War Eagles were hampered by a methodical Ridgeland offense, as the Titans milked the clock and kept WCHS frustrated throughout the first two quarters of play. WCHS tried to run set plays, but missed shots and a 19-12 rebounding advantage for RHS thwarted WCHS from running a faster-paced attack.
Defensively, the Titans packed their zone defense down low, not allowing the War Eagles big men to have much space to play with. Combined with a cold outside shooting performance, the War Eagles saw their lowest offensive output of the second for a half.
In the third quarter, the War Eagles took a page from the previous week’s quarterfinal win over Oxford, turning up the defensive pressure midway through the period to spark a 7-0 run that gave WCHS the lead.
After Ridgeland’s Price hit a free throw and Johnson added a pair of buckets, the Titans were ahead by a 15-9 margin with 5:39 left. Then, the defensive pressure was turned up and the War Eagles used a free throw from Devin Paicely-Smith, free throws from Tevin Smith and Wallace and a three-pointer and another bucket from Tevin Smith to make it 17-16 with 1:17 remaining.
The two teams entered the final period of play with that same margin.
Things became a free throw contest for most of the final stanza, with Johnson converting a three-point play to get things started. Wallace answered with a pair of free throws, followed by a bucket from Devin Paicely-Smith that gave WCHS a 21-19 lead. A pair of free throws from Price knotted things up at 21-21 before Tramond Lofton hit a bucket at the 3:21 mark. Ridgeland answered by hitting 3-of-4 free throws to make it 24-23 Titans with 1:56 remaining.
Wallace answerd with a bucket, but then Thompson hit a pair of free throws. Marquis Powe hit a short runner with 11 seconds left before Thompson’s heroics.
The War Eagles were led by nine points from Wallace while Tevin Smith added eight. The War Eagles hit 9-of-33 field goals, including a 2-of-9 performance from behind the three-point line, while connecting on 7-of-16 free throws.
The Titans were led by nine points each from Thompson and Johnson. RHS hit 9-of-35 field goals and were 1-of-9 behind the three-point arc. The Titans held a 34-25 rebounding advantage on the night.