Paris played their final basketball games on campus for the 2020-21 season on Saturday when it hosted first round games of the boys and girls 3A-4 district tournament. The sub-freezing temperatures outside Paris Gymnasium were in sharp contrast to the hot and furious action in the girls and boys first round games.
In the first game of the day, the number six seed Paris Lady Eagles hosted the number seven seed Waldron Lady Bulldogs. The two schools split their regular season series with both winning home games in December and January.
Waldron started the game strong with good interior defense against the inside game of Paris. The Lady Bulldogs held Paris’s Jadyn Hart to just five points in the quarter, and Brailey Forst to three points. Waldron led the Lady Eagles at the end of the first quarter by a score of 13-8.
As the two teams moved into the second quarter, Waldron kept up their tough defense limiting Paris to just one shot on offensive possessions. By halftime, the Lady Bulldogs led Paris 30-19.
Facing a “win or go home” scenario, the Lady Eagles came out in the third quarter and employed a full court press that created multiple turnovers and scoring opportunities for Paris. By the end of the third quarter, Paris had all but made up the 11 point deficit and trailed Waldron by just one point, 34-33. On the final play of the quarter, Jadyn Hart was fouled in three point territory. The Paris senior calmly stepped up to the line and sank three free throws that pulled Paris within one point.
Paris took the lead in the game for the first time with 2:58 remaining in the game. The Paris full court pressure continued to bother the Lady Bulldogs on their offensive posessions. The Lady Eagles finished the game with a spread offense that ran time off the clock to end the game. The final score was Paris defeating Waldron, 46-38. Jadyn Hart led Paris scorers with 19 points. Brailey Forst had 13 points and Jadyn Wells added 5 points for the Lady Eagles.
After the game, a proud Lady Eagles coach, Donald Hart, said of his team, “I thought Waldron was well coached and played very well in the first half. We had to make adjustments at half to apply pressure and change the momentum. We could have packed it up after going down 14 points in the third, but instead, we responded and played with heart. I am proud of every player from the bench to the floor.”
With the victory, Paris advances to the quarterfinal round that is scheduled for Monday night at 6 p.m. The Lady Eagles will travel to Cedarville, weather permitting, to play the Lady Pirates.
In the second game of the day, the Paris senior boys hosted the Danville Little Johns in the first round of the district boys bracket. The two teams split with both winning at home. In their last meeting, the game was marred by an injury to Danville’s Solomon Gilkey. Gilkey returned to the court on Saturday, and for all who witnessed his fall a few weeks ago, it was good to see the athletic Gilkey healthy and back on the floor again.
The Eagles started fast and never looked back. Unlike the previous two games played between the two teams in the regular season, Paris was in control for the entire game. By halftime, the Eagles led 24-14 behind good rebounding and tough defense. The Eagles’ Mequeil Ellingberg continues to improve and become a force in the middle. The junior center even showed burst of quickness as he often sprinted down the floor to the defensive end on numerous possessions. At the half, the Eagles were led in scoring by sophomore Sam Muldrow with nine points, senior Caleb Cunningham with six, and Ellingberg with four points.
In the third, the Eagles continued to clog the lane and refuse the Little Johns the opportunity to score inside. In their previous meeting, Danville hurt Paris with numerous drives and lob passes for easy lay ins. Paris forced Danville to beat them from the outside and the strategy paid off for the Eagles. Paris continued to manufacture multiple scoring opportunities from turnovers produced by their defense. By the end of the quarter, Paris led the Little Johns 41-26.
As the fourth quarter moved on, Paris was able to mass substitute and rest starters for their quarterfinals match. The final score was 56-37, and Paris will move on to play at Booneville on Tuesday night, weather permitting.
Paris head coach Blain Brewington said after the game, “I am proud of our kids. We guarded and stayed true to our game plan the entire game. The bench came in and never skipped a beat. These guys are a fun group to coach and they keep getting better everyday.”
Monday and Tuesday’s quarterfinals games are scheduled to tip at 6 p.m. Obviously, severe winter weather has invaded the region and all games are subject to schedule changes. Tournament coaches and administrators are under pressure to conclude the district tournament in time for the following week’s regional tournament in Bergman while at the same time taking necessary precautions to protect their team’s and fan bases’ safety. This will be tricky, and Resident Press will keep our readers updated as information is available.
Congratulations to Waldron, Danville, and Paris on great seasons. Fans from all schools can find additional photos from both games on Facebook at Paris Eagles Sports.
Resident Press will see you at the quarterfinals…whenever and wherever they are played. In the meantime, stay safe, and watch for more updates on Resident Press!