Fans who left Tuesday’s Byrd-Southwood game early with the Yellow Jackets leading by 17 late in the third quarter probably thought the home team had a win well in hand.
Byrd hung on for an 82-75 win, but not before Daterrius Hubbard and the Cowboys mounted a huge charge that slashed Byrd’s lead to as little as three points with a minute left.
But Byrd (18-4, 4-0 in District 1-5A), who made just 22-of-37 free throws, stepped to the line and made nine of its last 10 in the final minute.
Photo gallery: C.E. Byrd-Southwood
Demetre Mahoney made four free throws and Montrey Thomas added another three free throws to help stave off a feisty Southwood (18-6, 2-2) team that went on a 34-20 run in about an 11-minute span.
“We had it on our mind as a team that we wanted to defend our home court,” said Thomas, who scored 21 points. “We wanted to make a statement that Southwood came to beat us and embarrass us in front of the city, so we wanted to come and show everybody that we were ready and prepared.
“We had to stay together as a team and not get too rattled. Just listening to (coach Rusty Johnson) and completing the game plan.”
Hubbard scored 25 of his game-high 35 points in the second half.
Byrd’s Chad Lott scored 20 of his team-high 31 points in the first half as the Yellow Jackets raced to a 40-29 halftime lead.
“Our team did a great job of fighting … after being sluggish in the first half and not playing well,” said Southwood coach Norman Picou. “Byrd’s hard enough to play when they don’t have a lead, but they’re really tough when they get out front like they did.
“Hubbard is healthy now, and he’s a heckuva player that carried us tonight. (Lott) is such a great player, too, and he understands the game so well.”
Southwood’s Shakelvin Calhoun chipped in 19 points, including three 3-pointers.
Hubbard got his first four points before the game even started as Byrd received two technical fouls for dunking in warmups.
The Cowboys vaulted to a 9-3 lead early, but Byrd responded with a 7-0 run and led 18-17 after the first quarter.
With Southwood leading 24-21, the Yellow Jackets pulled away by ending the first half on a 19-5 run for a 40-29 lead.
Lott, who drove to the basket at will in the first half, scored nine straight Byrd points including a steal and dunk that sparked the run.
Then Thomas added a 3-pointer, and Thomas and Lott combined for 15 of the 19 points during the run. The duo scored 52 of Byrd’s 82 points Tuesday to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 4-0 start to district play.
The Yellow Jackets are alone in first place after sharing the District 1-5A title with Captain Shreve this past season. Up next is a Parkway (18-7, 3-1) team that slugged Shreve 83-59 on Tuesday.
“They showed a lot of desire and intensity to get back in it, and they never hung their heads (on the technical fouls),” said Byrd coach Rusty Johnson. “I told we could catch up.
“I think both teams got tired early in a very intense game, and that allowed (Chad to drive). We made a few free throws when we had to and got some key rebounds late.”