Damon West insists he wasn’t nervous. He knows his Rayville team and what they’re capable of.
No one would blame him if he was though after looking at the situation.
Rayville was right there with the Ouachita Lions. In their gym, the Madhouse on Millhaven. In the finals of their tournament, the Don Redden Memorial Classic. With the chance to knock them off the tournament champion thrown they’ve occupied for seven years.
West never broke a sweat. Not even when it went to overtime. He left that up to his players.
Behind Redden MVP Jamarion ‘Papa’ Johnson and clutch free-throw shooting from C’Anthony Murphy, Rayville took advantage of three Ouachita turnovers in the final 90 seconds of OT and shocked the Lions (20-2) 78-74.
The Hornets (20-1) join the short list of McCall, West Monroe, Wossman, Madison and Peabody of teams not named Ouachita to win the Don Redden in its 20-year history.
“I wasn’t nervous because our guys just had to go play the game. I know what we work on and they executed,” West said. “They’re a great group of guys that work hard every day and they deserved to win this thing.”
Rayville carried a surge into the fourth quarter that grew into a 9-3 run and put the Hornets down four. Natron Kendricks’ 1-for-2 trip to the free-throw line at the 4:17 mark made it just a one-point game — a far cry from the sizable double digit lead Ouachita held during the first half and most of the third quarter.
“Credit Rayville for playing hard but I thought two or three times we had them down 12 or 14 points but we relaxed,” Ouachita head coach Casey Jones said. “We were able to get away with that early in the year but I’ve been preaching you can’t do that against a good team. I hate to say I told the kids I was right and it was going to come back and bite us but here it is.”
After scoring six points on Ouachita’s first five possessions, Cephus Gix did his best to carry the offense down the stretch, scoring nine points in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter. Rayville answered with Murphy and Johnson, whose tip in forced overtime.
Speeding up the tempo of the game and cycling through their seemingly endless amount of reserves, the Hornets kept Ouachita out of the paint and away from the rim.
“That was our plan to limit them to one shot on possessions,” West said. “We were able to cut over, box out and once we got the rebound, we ran.”
The Lions had success with Gix and D’Majio Richard getting to the rack, but when those opportunities disappeared, Ouachita began doing some un-Ouachita things with the basketball that resulted in turnovers and bad shots.
“We started doing things we don’t normal do in press offense and half court offense,” Jones said. Those are things we don’t practice and when that happens, bad things are going to happen.”
Richard tied the game at 74 with 1:09 left in OT, but all that followed were Ouachita turnovers and Murphy’s trip to the line.
Johnson finished with 13 points, including two free throws that gave Rayville its first lead of the night.
“I was real nervous shooting those free throws,” Johnson said. “This is going to help us going into district because we all hung together and played as a team.”
Murphy led Rayville with 22 points.
Gix (23), Jay Head (12) and Richard (11) all finished in double-figures for Ouachita.
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2015 DON REDDEN ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
MVP: Jamarion ‘Papa’ Johnson – Rayville
G C’Anthony Murphy – Rayville
G Decarion Qualls – Rayville
G Cephus Gix – Ouachita
G C.J. Jones – Ouachita
G Jarvis Dean – Wossman
G Kobe Jones – Franklin Parish
G Jake Norris – West Monroe
G Ty Pugh – Mansfield
F Amari Davis – Carroll
F Isaiah Buggs – Ruston