By Brandon Speck
JACKSON – In the first half of Friday’s Class 2A semifinal, Baldwyn looked ready to head back to Prentiss County, happy enough with its North trophy.
“I told our guys that if they had any money saved up at home, they need to go home and give it to their parents,” Baldwyn coach Jason McKay said. “Because we’ve wasted a lot of money coming down here. We did not play basketball the first half. That’s my fault.”
Then the defending champs gave a huge crowd their money’s worth in a 70-56 win against Heidelberg, advancing to Thursday’s state championship against S.V. Marshall. It will be Baldwyn’s fourth title game in five years.
The first half was ugly. The Bearcats (31-3) shot 27 percent and trailed 30-18. Sophomore Conner McKay led the miss parade, 0-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-5 from deep.
Then he and his young teammates got hot. McKay hit back-to-back 3s in the third quarter to pull within six. After the second one, he had a two-handed block on the other end.
“That’s my second one,” he said, then smiled bigger than he did about the 3s. “I probably won’t get another one.”
The third of his four makes from deep in the third quarter got a roll a hateful rim that refused him in the first half. Down three points headed to the final period, freshman Felix Hayes’ 3-pointer got Baldwyn within two and sophomore Coby Agnew hit a pair from deep in the fourth, the second an answer to a three-point play from Juwan Jones – for a 49-48 lead. Sophomore Duke Upshaw scored 12 points, 6-for-6 from the line in the fourth quarter. Agnew had 14. Frankie Collins had 15 for the Oilers (24-10).
“Naturally, some of Conner’s 3s were turning points in the game, but Duke being able to get to the rim some, Coby Agnew’s 3s …” Jason McKay said. “You can’t define one single deal.”
Baldwyn hit 7-of-8 3s in the second half, 52.9 percent for the game.
The 3s were big, but so was McKay at the free throw line. He shot 20 times, all in the fourth quarter and made 18 of them, shots that closed the game with Baldwyn scoring 37 points in the quarter, more than the first three quarters combined.