The homestanding Bulldogs used a strong second half defense for the second night in a row to advance to Friday’s Paul Wallace Classic championship game with a 42-33 win over St. Patrick Thursday night.
With the win, the Bulldogs advance to play George County in the boys championship game, which is slated to tip off at 7 p.m. The Irish will meet Stone County in the consolation game, which has a scheduled tip of 4 p.m.
Wednesday, against Pearl River Central in the tournament opener, Vancleave held the Blue Devils to just 11 points over the third and fourth quarters to come out with the win. Thursday, Vancleave held St. Patrick to only 10 points in the final half – one point in the fourth quarter – to get the win.
“We switched up our defense in the fourth quarter,” said Vancleave coach Robert Johnson, adding that foul trouble forced him to go the bench and use a different defense. “We took away their inside game and forced them to make some difficult shots.”
Johnson also said Vancleave took better care of the basketball in the second half after turning the ball over 11 times in the first half. In the second half, the Bulldogs turned the ball over only five times.
“Protecting the basketball showed up in the final score,” he said.
Vancleave came into the final quarter trailing 32-31. Behind Trevor Davis, who hit 3-of-4 free throws in the last four minutes and added a bucket early in the fourth, the Bulldogs quickly surged in front of St. Patrick, going on an 11-1 run in the final quarter to seal the win.
Davis finished with 18 points to pace Vancleave. Xavier Bass added eight points. Gage Short scored only two points, but they came on three free throw attempts in the final minute to help seal the win.
Jack Magandy paced St. Patrick with 11 points. Tucker Santiago and Tavian Strobridge scored nine points each for the Irish.
Johnson said he is using the tournament to prepare his team for divisional play, which starts in January.
“We are getting better,” he said. “We are trying to get back in the rhythm of basketball. We have a very good team tomorrow (Friday). (George County) is a very athletic team.”
George County 61, Stone 52: Jaquan Hawkins scored 10 of his 23 points in the final quarter to help George County hold off a determined Stone comeback and lift the Rebels to a 61-52 win in the semifinal round of the Paul Wallace Classic on Thursday.
Hawkins and LaRaymond Spivery got the Rebels off to a strong start Thursday, with Hawkins scoring six in the opening quarter and Spivery six in the second quarter to go with three in the first quarter. Landon Arnold fought back for Stone County, scoring nine points in the initial half, but senior guard was the only Tomcat shooting well in the first quarter as George County took a 25-14 lead into the locker room.
Hawkins regained his hot hand with seven points in the third quarter as George County expanded its lead to 43-25 heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, behind three Caleb Chandler treys, eight points from Brian Milton, and seven from Arnold, the Tomcats mounted a fierce comeback. With 4:23 left in the game, Dalan Breland came up with a steal and easy lay-up to cut the Rebels lead to four, 45-41.
However, Hawkins and Spivery responded with three short baskets for George County as the Rebels pushed their lead back out to 10, 51-41, with 2:53 left in the game and never looked back.
Spivery was second on the Rebels scoring charts with 17 points. Cameron Hartsfield added nine points for George County.
Arnold scored 17 to pace the Tomcats. Milton added 10 points and Chandler finished with nine points.
In other games:
East Central girls 57, Stone County 29: Sania Wells and Madison Pearson scored five points each as East Central opened up with a 13-2 first quarter run and never looked back.
With the win, the Hornets advance to the girls championship game Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Greene County, who beat Gautier in the other semifinal round. Stone County and Gautier will play in the consolation game at 2:30 p.m.
Wells finished with 19 points to pace the Hornets. Cayce Fulton was second for East Central with nine points while Pearson finished with six points. Hydia McDonald scored 13 to lead Stone County.
Greene County girls 35, Gautier 14: Ranisha Gunn scored 15 points and Higgins Beyounce 11 points as Greene County advanced to Friday's girls tournament championship game against East Central. Joan Carter led Gautier with six points.
Ocean Springs 59, East Central 29: Jordan Brack scored 11 points in the final quarter as Ocean Springs pulled away from the Hornets with a 23-4 run over the last eight minutes of the game.
With the win, the Greyhounds meet Pearl River Central in the boys fifth-place game with a tip-off scheduled for 1 p.m.
Brack finished with 22 points to lead Ocean Springs with Will Evans adding 10 points and Ryan Black scoring eight points.
Terrell McAdams paced East Central with 12 points.
St. Patrick girls 47, George County girls 37: Morgan McCrea scored six points in the final quarter to lead the Irish on a 17-8 run over the last eight minutes to pull away from the Rebels.
St. Patrick will play PRC in the girls fifth-place game, which will open play Friday at 11:30 a.m.
McCrea paced St. Patrick with 17 points. Olivia Allen and Baylee Hodge added seven points each for the Irish. Marsha Grayson paced George County with a game-high 20 points.
Pearl River Central girls 27, Vancleave 20: Pearl River Central survived being shutout in the final quarter to advance to the fifth-place game against St. Patrick. With the Blue Devils being unable to score, the Bulldogs mounted a comeback behind Melanie Demoran and Taylor Jordan, who combined for all nine of Vancleave's points in the final quarter.
Brooklyn Howe paced Pearl River with nine points with Harlee Davis scoring seven points. Demoran scored nine to lead Vancleave.
Pearl River Central 59, Greene County 35: Greene County got off to a very slow start, scoring just eight points in the first half as the Wildcats fell behind the Blue Devils 25-8 at the break.
A.J. Banks scored 11 to lead nine Pear River scorers in the book. Louis Reece added 10 points and Willie Reece eight points for the Blue Devils. Larue Weaver scored 10 points to pace Greene County.