By David Wheeler | NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Piney Woods came into Saturday’s contest in the annual Hot Bed Classic with a high-flying reputation.
That was all right with Jason McKay and the Baldwyn Bearcats, they were just looking to play hard and come away with a victory.
Mission accomplished for the Bearcats, whose tough man-to-man defense helped to overcome the athletic play of Piney Woods for a 62-49 win.
“Our guys usually play intense, but they were looking forward to this challenge,” McKay said. We knew Piney Wood’s reputation, and I was proud of the way they handled themselves on the floor.”
Piney Woods (8-9) had dunks in the first quarter by Kenneth Taylor and Kyle Lee, but Baldwyn used the free throw line to its advantage for a 12-9 edge by the end of the period.
Taylor’s 6-foot-4 size came into play in the second quarter as Piney Woods exploited its height advantage. A junior, Taylor converted on two three-point plays and scored 15 points in the period as Piney Woods moved to a 32-26 lead at the intermission.
“I think the difference in the game was our No. 5 men,” McKay said of post-players Devonta Gates, Romaro Crump, and Parrish Huddleston. “Sure Taylor scored a lot of points, but they really worked hard.”
Not deterred, Baldwyn kept playing hard, finding some success in the third quarter. Ian Burress hit a pair of 3-pointers, and back-to-back scores by Dee Gates and Duke Upshaw gave the Bearcats a 42-39 lead by the end of the period.
Riding ‘a tough road’
Baldwyn (19-2) took that momentum into the fourth quarter, where a key steal and conversion by Upshaw, and a key three-point play by Tevin Lindsey helped to push its margin to 55-46 with 2 minutes, 56 seconds to play.
“These are games that help a season, but it’s a tough road in 2A with good teams out there,” said McKay, whose Bearcats also had an impressive win last Saturday versus Booneville. “It’s good knowing our guys like to look for a challenge.”
Upshaw paced Baldwy with 22, and Lee tossed in 30 for Piney Woods.