Down the stretch of the season, the Watson Chapel Wildcats had become accustomed to playing close games that came down to the wire. Friday was no exception. Unfortunately for the No. 3 Wildcats, though, this game ended in a 43-41 loss to the No. 4 Little Rock J.A. Fair War Eagles in the quarter-final round of the 5A State tournament.
This was the second meeting of the season between the Wildcats and War Eagles, as they met on Nov. 28. At that point, the Wildcats were light years away from where they ended up. The final score in the first affair was 76-55, but this time around it was a back and forth fight to the finish.
Fair was led by their senior wing Mickeal Foust, who scored 28 points the first time the two teams met. At times where it seemed as if Watson Chapel had a chance to build a respectable lead, Foust made plays to keep the War Eagles in it.
Watson Chapel held the lead after each of the first three quarters, but they allowed J.A. Fair to stay in it.
Senior big man Willie Vaughn began the game with a monstrous put-back slam, and it was evident the Wildcats wanted to feed him early. Wildcats senior point guard Kevon Mitchell was in rhythm early, and he played a complete game as a floor general.
Leading 14-11 after one quarter, Watson Chapel senior Markevion Harris got going, opening quarter two with a corner three pointer. Junior Baccarion Black, senior Willie Webster, and sophomore Jordan Tillmon all solidified the rotation for the Wildcats, and by the looks of things, they were the deeper team.
For the War Eagles, two big runs were key to their victory. Fair closed the second quarter on a 6-1 extended run to cut it to three, and they closed the third on a 7-0 run to make it 37-36 in Watson Chapel's favor.
Foust tied the game at 39-39 with 4:45 to play. Down the stretch, one of the things that has hurt this Wildcats team all season killed them again, and that was shooting free throws.
Tied at 41-41, the War Eagles stalled until there was about 15 seconds on the clock. They drove the land and dished it down low for a wide open lay up to go up two, and the Wildcats missed a last-second shot that would have won the game.
For J.A. Fair, Foust led them in scoring with a game-high 14 points.
Vaughn led all Watson Chapel scorers with 11 points, and senior guard Willie Webster scored 10 points.