Photo by Jerry Jackson
Rufus Brown jams home two of his 14 points on an offensive rebound at the end of the first quarter.
Drew boys basketball players had more than an inkling that they were going to hand Eagle’s Landing its first Region 4-AAA loss Tuesday night. So they made sure that they looked the part.
Instead of the traditional white uniforms that home teams wear, the No. 6-ranked Titans voted to don snazzy gold outfits instead. They were fully aware that such a violation of the rules would incur a technical foul that could cost them two points and the ball before any real action took place.
“They asked and understood that it was going to be a tech,” Drew coach Jarrod Davis said. “They said, ‘We’re going to make sure it’s not going to affect the outcome of the game.’ ”
The Titans kept their word and then some, winning 64-52 and preventing the No. 2-ranked Golden Eagles from clinching the region’s top seed. Derrick Frye had 24 points as Drew won its ninth in a row, while snapping the Golden Eagles’ eight-game winning streak.
With Eagle’s Landing’s 6-foot-10 shot-blocking center Desmond Ringer in the paint, Frye wasn’t the picture of confidence in the first minute, and Davis quickly called a timeout to let him know about it.
“He started out apprehensive,” Davis said. “My thing all week has been that (Ringer is) 6-11. He’s going to block shots. But you’ve got to keep going, keep going, keep going after him.”
Frye answered with two drives to the basket for layups and the tone was set.
“That was a very good response from him,” Davis said.
Meanwhile, Eagle’s Landing coach Clay Crump had little reason to be pleased with anything he saw. The Golden Eagles took their time absorbing the defeat in the post-game locker room.
“We never had all five of our players come to play at the same time,” Crump said. “I saw a lot of watching, deferring, a lack of mental awareness. And they made us pay. When you have five back-door layups against a zone, they did a good job and we did a bad one.”
The Titans (20-3, 12-2) took control early in the second quarter, shortly after Eric Wortham had given Eagle’s Landing (20-2, 12-1) its last lead on a 3-pointer that made it 19-16. The Titans went on a 14-1 run, with Rufus Brown’s layup capping the spurt and giving them their biggest lead of the half at 30-20.
The Golden Eagles trimmed it to 30-24 at halftime, but came back from the intermission only to get hit immediately with another Drew spurt. The Titans reeled off the first 10 points of the second half, holding Eagle’s Landing scoreless for 4:33 while establishing a 16-point lead.
Eagle’s Landing, meanwhile, felt forced to settle for perimeter shots.
“We drove the ball, but got a lot of contact,” Crump said. “When you get a forearm in the chest, get knocked down and it’s the other team’s ball, you shoot 3s.”
Crump said the Golden Eagles “didn’t get to the line a lot,” but Eagle’s Landing shot two more free throws than Drew and shot them a little better, making 15 of 21 to Drew’s 12 of 19.
Wortham led the Golden Eagles with 24 points, but none of his teammates mustered more than Isaiah Dennis’ 10.
Even Davis acknowledged that the defeat likely won’t prevent Eagle’s Landing from earning the region’s top seed, which the Golden Eagles can earn by running the table in their last three region games against Sandy Creek, Spalding and Locust Grove, which are a combined 19-45.
But the coach said avenging the 74-67 loss they suffered Dec. 6 at Eagle’s Landing gives the Titans “something for our confidence coming down the stretch.” He said his team reminds him of the Cheez-It commercial, where a monitor waits for a talking piece of cheese to mature before it can become an ingredient in the company’s snack crackers.
“I’m still saying they’re not ready,” Davis said, chuckling.
The Titans may not be cheese, but they were plenty sharp nonetheless.
“The scary part of this it’s a huge win, but we’ve got to turn around and play another tough opponent Friday night,” Davis said, referring to Eastside. “If we don’t win that one, this means nothing.”