BATTLE CRY: Indians spearhead Area 7 title, advance to sub-regionalsPublished 10:49am Wednesday, February 12, 2014
When Wetumpka took the court against Thompson Monday, Friday’s game with Stanhope Elmore singed in their minds.
After staring elimination and an abrupt season’s end in the eyes, the Indians (19-5) reinforced its battle cry and ran away with the Class 6A Area 7 area championship over the Warriors 67-42.
“The guys took it to heart,” Wetumpka head coach Ed Rogers said. “The guys knew we had the best team, and when Stanhope led us the whole game, they took it personal. They prepared themselves mentally before this game even started. The way we came out, we turned our defense up–that’s what I said we were going to work on–and it showed dividends.”
Riding a 14-game win streak into the area title contest, the Indians and Thompson played to an 11-11 tie after the opening quarter. WHS worked up to a 25-17 halftime advantage.
Wetumpka’s defense-first approach began to wear down Thompson.
“We just had to stop their offense and just play good defense,” senior forward Rodreka Jones, who ended with 13 points, said. “Stop their screens, the back screens they were doing. We just knew how to stop their offense and play good defense.”
Rogers said switching on screens, something that the team didn’t do in the two regular season meetings, kept Thompson off balance.
“We knew watching Thompson on film, both games, we knew we had to contest,” the coach said. “Not only that, but when you jump that ball screen and the down screens on the backside, we kept switching those too. They didn’t get the three-pointers they were looking to get.”
Thompson made only two three-pointers, while Wetumpka sank 10 on the night, with two from senior De’Arris Buycks at the beginning of the second half that opened the lead for WHS to 33-19. Jones’s three at the 2:07 mark in the third period pushed the Indians lead to 44-24.
Buycks scored 14 of his game-high 16 in the second half.
“When they come to set hard ball screens, we fought through it,” Rogers said. “The refs allowed us to play and that kept us in rhythm. We get in rhythm, hit a couple of threes, the defense comes up. I see guys clapping their hands, pumping up, I haven’t seen that all year–especially out of (De’Arris) Buycks. He’s so mellow. Tonight, he wanted to win.”
After clinching the area title, Jones credited Rogers for the team’s success this season.
“I think Coach Rogers did a good job with this team this year,” he said. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be here. I’m just glad to have him as a coach.”
Next up, the Indians will host the Pelham Panthers in the sub-regional round of the AHSAA playoffs Friday. If WHS can repeat its defensive performance, it didn’t matter who they played, according to Rogers.
“The way we played defense tonight, I don’t care who we play–with that type of intensity, challenging every shot,” he said. “The team learned a whole lot throughout the year and it paid dividends tonight.”