Long Beach Poly outlasted Landry Walker for a 49-48 win in the first round of the 2018 King Cotton Classic on Thursday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. They will play the Park School at 7:45 p.m. Friday in the second game of the second round.
Landry Walker will play the Pine Bluff Zebras, who lost to the Park School Thursday, in the losers' bracket at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Long Beach jumped out to an early 5-0 lead after a three by senior guard Giordan Williams. However, just like they did all game long, Landry Walker continued to fight to stay in it. Walker fought back to tie the game at 7-7 after a three-pointer by senior guard Shadon Green.
Long Beach then went on a 6-0 run to recapture the lead and their momentum. Williams closed quarter one with a basket to put Long Beach up 17-12 after quarter one.
Both teams traded baskets to open the second quarter before things would tighten up on the defensive end. At the media timeout, Long Beach held a three-point lead as their senior guard Justin Rene provided them with consistent scoring. Long Beach would open up an eight-point lead after a fast-break layup from Williams. At halftime, Landry Walker trailed 26-18 after going 6-24 from the field in the first two quarters of play.
Long Beach senior guard Johnathan Hill opened up the second half with a three-pointer that gave them a double-digit lead. Solid man-to-man defense by Long Beach forced Landry Walker into taking shots late in the shot clock.
Landry Walker needed a spark on offense, and they got it in the form of an 8-2 run that made it a two-possession ball game. Landry Walker's defense picked up as they held Poly to nine points total in the third quarter, which allowed them to inch back into the game. Heading to the final quarter, Long Beach led 35-28, but their offense had begun to sputter.
A three pointer by Landry Walker senior Solomon Doucette cut the Long Beach lead to five with 6:49 to play in the game. Landry Walker senior Torey Cargo connected on a three pointer, then followed up with a put-back layup to make it 41-37 in Long Beach's favor at the final media timeout.
Landry Walker senior Jason Joseph single-handily went on a 5-0 run to give Landry Walker their first lead of the ball game with 3:00 to play. Williams ended the scoring drought with a couple of free throws for Long Beach to give them a one-point advantage with 1:30 left.
Down the stretch, three crucial free throws by Long Beach senior Malik Salahuddin sealed the deal, including going 1-2 on a crucial technical foul call with 5.7 seconds left to play.
Joseph led Landry Walker with 13 points. For Long Beach, Williams scored 13 points, and Rene led all scorers with 17 points.
Long Beach Head Coach Shelton Diggs was proud to see his guys step up and knock down their free throws to help gain a win in round one. Salahuddin, Rene and Williams combined to go 13-14 from the free throw line.
"These are my three senior leaders," Diggs said of that trio. "These guys have been on varsity with us for three years. We work on free throws every day, and relying on them to make free throws at the end of the game is what we're going to have to do all year. I'm very confident with them, and it's good for us to shoot it like that but it's expected."