BY BRIAN BESCH
One look at the final score would not tell the entire story Tuesday night in the Hornet's nest. The Pirates of Leggett were victorious 64-54, but a back and forth contest would show the best in both teams.
The Pirates were able to overcome the absence of Coach Dennis Stewart, who was out with a death in the family. Girls Coach Terri Barlow pulled double duty, leading both the boys and girls game for Leggett.
The visitors began the contest with an 11-0 lead, dominating the boards and slapping shots once they left the hands of Goodrich shooters.
An easy Pirate win seemed imminent, but the Hornets would fight back. The quarter would close with a 14-6 Leggett lead.
"With this group and my girls, it is a little bit different," Barlow said. "Some of the guys were listening to the crowd and getting out of the game. I said, 'listen to me; stop listening to the crowd. Do what Coach Stewart has told you, do what I'm asking you to do and you will win the game. I asked them to play team ball and look inside. They couldn't stop us inside. We needed to stop shooting the long shots, and move our feet and rotate on defense."
The second quarter saw a continuation of Hornet hustle, with the defense getting good position and the offense beating defenders down the court.
Goodrich closed the gap to 16-15 with 4:15 in the period. A three pointer from Ezavier Bacon opened the margin to four.
Davante Hughes tied the game at 19 with 2:00 left in the half on a layup. After a Leggett lay in, Hughes hit a three-pointer to take the lead. Two additional layups had the Hornets at a five-point advantage.
Great ball movement with seconds remaining gave the Hornets a lay in and seven-point lead going into the half.
A 30-10 run that spilled into the second half put Goodrich in front by nine. A very timid team in the opening minutes of the match was full of confidence and driving hard to the rim.
"We kept battling, and Leggett is a big and experienced team," Goodrich Coach Lester King said. "We never did quit and that's what I liked about it. We ran them down a little bit and then we may have run out of gas a little bit, because we are playing six. We're still in the race (in district), because we have two losses. We're going to try to hang in there and steal one on the road while we get these at home. I'm not going to let up. I'm going to keep working them and we need to handle our business at home."
When the Pirates also made the decision to drive, the gap closed quickly. A mid-court trap, waiting for open shots, and excellent ball movement kept a bit of momentum with the home team.
Leggett made a commitment to the inside game, as Leslie Koroma put in 10 points in the period. That would work the game back to a tie with 14 seconds left in the third, leaving a 42-42 score as the final frame began.
"Leggett is a rivalry, but you can't get nervous," King said. "We make turnovers or bad passes, but it comes with a lack of experience. But, we're never going to be at a hustle disadvantage because we would have some long practices the next day. We will never be out-hustled. I told them at halftime it wasn't over. You couldn't celebrate because if the game was played for just a half, we would have won a lot of them."
With 7:21 in the game the Pirates would again take the lead on a Bacon lay in. Just 20 seconds later, Bacon delivered an old-fashioned three-point play.
With only 2:38 off the clock in the fourth, Leggett had grabbed an eight-point lead.
The game's end looked much the same as how it began. Leggett began to use its height advantage to get position down low and control rebounds.
"They were able to penetrate and get to the basket," Barlow said. "The inside game was the big difference. We were relaxing more and playing more as individuals. I told them at halftime, 'settle down and play ball. Move the ball and go back to like you played the first four minutes of the game.' I told (Koroma) to relax and play ball like you don't have any fouls. I asked him after the game, 'did you pick up any fouls in the second half?"
"He said, 'no ma'am.'"
The tall post would lead the game with 23 points. Bacon added 17 and Kevin Washington had 11. For Goodrich, Jamarcus Fisher led with 18. Zyan Henderson and Jordan Landers each had 10.
"It was really important to get a win with the boys in honor of their coach," Barlow said. "He had a death in the family and I wanted to step up and win this game for him where he didn't have to worry about it."
Goodrich will meet Spurger Friday while trying to stay in the playoff hunt, as they are currently tied for third place. Leggett will travel to High Island, attempting to protect their second place standing in District 29-1A.