VIVIAN – North Caddo’s Robert Williams can look forward to taking at least one rivalry with him when he joins Texas A&M next season.
Arkansas signee Adrio Bailey got the better of Williams and the Rebels in their first four meetings for a Lakeview team that made two consecutive 2A state title appearances. But Williams refused to let it happen again as he carried North Caddo ( 19-5, 4-0 District 1-2A) to a 67-61 come-from-behind win over its district rival with a game-high 25 points to go along with 14 rebounds and six blocks.
“(With) Adrio, we’ve got a rivalry, but we cool, both going to SEC. But the rivalry between Caddo and Lakeview, it’s serious,” Williams said. “It gets nasty out there. For us to get the victory, you don’t even understand how it feels. It feels like we won the championship.”
Bailey shared the same sentiment of mutual respect for his fellow SEC signee after scoring 19 points to lead the Gators (13-8, 3-1). Both big men came ready to play from the opening tip, as Williams had the Rebels’ first four points and Bailey scored eight of his team’s first 10.
They had their moments of dominance over each other, beginning with a huge block for Williams midway through the second quarter on Bailey’s turnaround jumper midway through the second quarter. The 6-foot-7 Lakeview senior would get some revenge when he stripped Williams and went coast-to-coast for a layup while drawing the foul to cut North Caddo’s lead to 51-48 in the fourth quarter.
While Williams occasionally matched up with Bailey throughout the game, Lakeview chose to put its star on Cherrod Hill, North Caddo’s leading scorer in each of the last five games. The sophomore scored just three points in the first three quarters, but Williams took advantage of his smaller defender by hitting several jump shots, including a 3-pointer, before the inevitable double team arrived.
“Last year, he didn’t knock as many shots as he did down,” Bailey said. “That’s why I’d like to commend him on that. He really worked on his game, developed that little mid-range shot. It’s almost automatic.”
After reluctantly waiting for three quarters to avoid foul trouble, Bailey finally got his chance to guard Williams for much of the final eight minutes. The game’s entertainment level went up a notch and he scored just four points the rest of the way, but Williams’ presence still made a huge difference as North Caddo quickly erased a five-point deficit and his teammates converted 10 of their last 11 free throws.
Williams intercepted an errant pass near halfcourt and found Chris Thomas for one of his five assists to key a 10-0 run before Bailey made a layup. Hill exploded for 15 points in the final quarter with more space and coach Ron Meikle said Williams’ great passing all night set up the late comeback.
“That’s what happens,” Meikle said. “When you’ve got a guy that can pass the ball like that, everybody loves playing with the guy.”
He softly dropped the ball into the basket for one alley-oop but otherwise didn’t have any of the powerful two-handed dunks opponents have become accustomed to seeing. Bailey made three highlight-reel slams, and even Williams had to admit his remarkable leaping ability can’t match the future Razorback.
But he’ll take the advantage where it matters most in the first game between the two when they were their team’s primary scorers. Players and fans took to mimicking their opponents’ “Gator chomp” in the fourth quarter, highlighting the emotion of a huge wni.
Both Williams and Bailey figure to return to their secondary offensive roles when they get to the SEC, which only makes North Caddo’s return trip to Lakeview on Feb. 9 that much more enticing. Considering how good the two big men looked when motivated Friday night, a third matchup in the playoffs seems quite realistic.
“If you’re a fan, that’s a great game to watch tonight,” Meikle said. “Because two guys going head-to-head from the SEC, it was great.”