By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
Booker T. Washington coach Kenneth Sykes had seen enough. Taking on Evangel in an important District 1-4A game in the Lions’ gym Tuesday night, Sykes watched as the Eagles’ star shooter, Lance Waddles, scored 10 in the first quarter and another eight in the second.
So Sykes told 6-foot-4 junior Oshamar Hall to go wherever Waddles went in the second half. Scoring for Hall was optional. He was the “one” in the Lions’ box-and-one defense. His only task: try to slow down Waddles.
Hall and the Lions’ defense played a huge role as BTW pulled out a 58-53 win over Evangel. The outcome kept BTW a game behind Huntington in the District 1-4A standings at 5-2 (18-7 overall).
“We were going to stick with our man as long as we could, but he (Waddles) got going early,” Sykes said. “That was enough. We had to do something to slow him up and make some other guys beat us.”
There’s no doubt that it worked. Waddles didn’t even get off a shot against Hall until 45 seconds remained in the third quarter. He scored only two baskets in the entire second half.
But he wasn’t alone. Evangel went 8:08 without scoring a basket and managed to make only one free throw. During that time, a 28-20 Eagles lead turned into a 37-29 BTW advantage, a 17-1 swing.
“It hurt us big time,” Evangel coach Eric Shepherd said. “When other teams go box-and-one, I’ve got to do a better job of putting my guys in better position to score points when they take away Lance. The box-and-one has been a thorn in my side. We’ve got to do better.”
Even with the prolonged Evangel drought, the Eagles still found a way to battle back as their pressure began to create opportunities on the offensive end.
Two free throws with 1:26 to play tied the score at 51 with a 6-0 run. BTW hadn’t made a basket since 5:42 in the THIRD quarter – but had made 14 of 16 free throws – and finally got loose as 6-foot-5 senior Calvin Collins got the ball after a steal for a layup to give BTW a lead the Lions would not lose.
Evangel had two 3-point shots to tie it in the final 20 seconds but couldn’t make either.
Fittingly, two more free throws (by BTW’s Nick Dyer) closed it out.
“We fought hard,” Sykes said. “We started to make plays coming down the stretch. We got a few turnovers and made some free throws when we needed to.”
BTW senior Jacobee Jackson was particularly tough at the free throw line, making 13 of 15.
“He’s our leading scorer and he didn’t do a lot from the field but he made his free throws,” Sykes said. “He’s tough to cover so we tried to get him going. But we knew some other guys were going to have to step up and make shots.”
Evangel fell to 5-3 in the district and 16-7 overall.
Next for the Lions will be a trip to Huntington to try to move into a tie for the district lead.
Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL