The Washington High boys basketball team rallied from an 19-point deficit in the third quarter to down J.O. Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) 59-53 in overtime at the Wildcat Invitational on Friday night.
But the tremendous rally was only part of what made the win special for the Wildcats. With the victory, Washington head coach Dwayne Louis got to celebrate the 100th win of his career.
“I’m very thankful and grateful for the administration for having our back,” Louis said after the win at Ronnie and Janis Bond Gymnasium.
It was junior point guard Josh Knight and junior guard Jadon Jones who had Louis’ back during the game.
Knight scored a team-high 22 points, including the final two free throws in the waning seconds of overtime that put the exclamation point on the Wildcats’ win. Jones produced a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Eight of his points came when the Wildcats needed them most, at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime.
“That was teamwork,” said Jones, who was playing with four fouls toward the end of the game. “We’ve been trying to work on teamwork since August, trying to get our chemistry right. We put it together tonight. … And when it all came out, everyone just came together and everybody played tough.”
And through adversity.
The Jaguars came out strong in the first three quarters and led 45-26 with 34.6 seconds left in the third quarter before baskets from Javan Williams and Knight cut into the Jaguars’ lead 45-30.
The fourth quarter, though, belonged to the Wildcats.
Williams got things started, scoring on a putback just seconds into the quarter that sparked an 8-0 run to make the score 45-38.
After J.O. Johnson scored again on a layup from senior Keilan Jackson, Knight and Jones got to work, combining for 13 points. The highlight of the run came with 1:15 left in regulation when Knight hit a three from about a foot behind the arch to cut into the Jaguars’ lead 47-46.
Following a free throw from Jones and a layup from Jaguars’ Keon Ray, Knight sunk two free throws to send the game to overtime with the score tied 49-49.
“I had four fouls, and coach was just like, pushing, saying ‘Keep on playing,’ ” Jones said. “And we just pushed through it. We came closer together and started to work together, and that’s all it took.”
The Jaguars and Wildcats traded baskets in the first two minutes of overtime to make the score 53-53 with 1:57 left in the game. But Jones scored from underneath the basket following a Jaguars turnover, grabbed a defensive rebound, and sunk two free throws with 24.6 seconds left to give Washington a 57-53 lead.
Knight was fouled while going up for a rebound, and made the two ensuing free throws for the final points of the game.
“What we learned tonight is, if we learn from our mistakes and do what we did tonight, and try to correct it, then things will be OK,” Jones said. “We pulled that one out together.”
The only negative in the Wildcats’ win was the lack of fans at the Wildcat Invitational to see it.
The three-day tournament, which began Thursday, features five out-of-town teams, including J.O. Johnson, Putnam City (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Baldwin County (Ala.), A.H. Parker (Birmingham, Ala.) and Foley (Ala.).
“It’s good that we have teams from out of town here, but as you can see, the turnout of spectators is kind of low,” Washington High athletic director Troy Faucheaux said as he sized up the crowd of about 200 spectators. “I think next year, we really ought to get more local teams.”
The primary issue, Louis said, is the Wildcats’ district, District 1-6A, which houses eight Pensacola-area teams. With so many teams playing in the same district, local squads are hesitant to play in a tournament where they potentially could face a district opponent, Louis said.
“Ideally, we want to have eight teams, with two, maybe three local teams,” Louis said. “Right now, pretty much all the teams in Pensacola are in the same district, and coaches don’t want to deal with playing the same team three or four times during the regular season and then playing them again in the district tournament. That can be a little tough.”
WASHINGTON 59, J.O. JOHNSON 53 OT
Washington…11 6 13 19 10 — 59
J.O. Johnson…17 11 17 4 6 — 53
Washington: Josh Knight 22, Jadon Jones 12, Javon Williams 11, Larry Shoemore 2, Latorice Mathis 2, Grover Brown 2, Kevontarious Williams 2, Daniel Laster 2.
Stats: Shoemore 1 rebound; Mathis 1 rebounds; Jones 12 rebounds; J. Williams 6 rebounds, K. williams 7 rebounds; Laster 7 rebounds, 3 blocks.