By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
Southwood boys basketball coach Brandon Gultery knew there would be a moment like this at some point this season. Even when the Cowboys opened 0-5 and lost seven of the first nine.
Even when the schedule kept getting tougher instead of easier.
That moment came Tuesday night, specifically in the left corner of the west side of the Southwood gym when one of the smallest players in the Cowboys’ lineup made the biggest shot of the season.
Senior point guard Tahj Graham’s 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining gave Southwood a 62-59 win over Natchitoches Central, the No. 3-ranked team in the Class 5A power rankings, and ended the Chiefs’ 11-game winning streak.
It also ended their time at top of the District 1-5A standings as Captain Shreve edged Airline 47-46 to stay atop with a 5-0 record. And look who is now in a tie for second – Southwood at 4-1.
“It really is the biggest win of the year,” Gultery said. “But our kids have been ready for the moment. We are used to playing in big games. That’s why we played the schedule like we did. We are battle tested and our guys came ready to play and the results showed.”
Southwood (11-12) led for most of the game – though there were two major swings in the third quarter – but a Natchitoches Central free throw with 39 seconds tied the game at 59-all.
Gultery called time out after a foul gave the Cowboys the ball under their own goal with 23 seconds to play.
He had plenty of options to take the last shot – 6-foot-9 sophomore Jeremiah Evans, 6-foot-7 Roderick Brown and sharpshooting guard Marquarius Johnson, who already had 20 points.
Instead, it was the guy who had zero points at the time.
“Tahj is big time,” Gultery said. “We drew it up just like that. We’ve been trusting him all year. I’m glad he came and had that moment for himself.”
The Chiefs’ Dalyn Davis had more than a few moments in the third quarter as he scored 12 straight points to lead a 12-3 run that put Natchitoches Central ahead 38-37 with 4:56 to go in the third quarter.
But Southwood immediately responded with a 14-2 run to take a 51-40 lead with a minute to go in the quarter.
“We went and dug ourselves a hole right after we got out of one,” Chiefs’ coach Kolton Sepulvado said. “After we had that big run, we allowed ourselves to get soft and so we gave up their run. We have to fight for 32 minutes. When you are going against a group with that much size and that much talent, you can’t afford to take a step back. At all.”
Davis led Natchitoches Central (14-4) with 16 points. The Chiefs will be at home Friday to take on Shreve to try to move back into first place, and if Southwood wins again, create a three-way tie for the 1-5A lead.
In addition to Johnson, Darius Anderson had 16 for the Cowboys and Evans had 10.
Photo: by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL