Blue Devils take inside track for Class 7A state tournament berth
By Billy Woods WM School District
Two stat lines stood out for the West Memphis Blue Devils last Friday night at Lehr Arena. The Blue Devils wore it out from the floor, particularly from three-point range, going 10 of 15 from the field in the first half and making 7 of 11 three-point attempts for the game in their 53-44 victory over Cabot. In addition, West Memphis got a season-high 39 bench points against Cabot’s 15. Head coach Larry Bray, who has tried offbeat ways in order to infuse some offensive power, ran a two-platoon system against Cabot, running in two sets of five players a few minutes at a time. The result couldn’t have been better for West Memphis. “The first group we put in there I told them I just wanted them to run with ball,” said Bray. “I had guys who could shoot on that second group that came in. We’ve got to score. We don’t have the size to score inside. We’ve got to hit those shots from the outside.” West Memphis’ most consistent shooter this year has been senior Dylan Gazo, and against Cabot he kept raining down threes, hitting his first two attempts in quick fashion, the latter of which gave the Blue Devils (9-7 overall, 2-1 in the 7A/6A-East Conference) a whopping 15-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. But Gazo wasn’t the only long-distance threat the Blue Devils had going. Senior Robert Harris hit a pair of treys and finished with a game-high 16 points, all of them coming off the bench. “I think it’s just a matter of confidence (with Harris) and we’re trying everything we can to give them some confidence,” Bray added. “We’re going to give them the green light to shoot it, so it shouldn’t be any problem with them hesitating.” The platoon system wore out Cabot (10-5, 1-2) from the start, but the visitors didn’t go down easy. They fought back for a 24-17 deficit at halftime and despite West Memphis running up a 16-point cushion in the third quarter, the Panthers cut the deficit to six twice in the final quarter. Demarious Hudson, who also a three-pointer, hit a pair of layups inside the three-minute mark to hold off Cabot’s charge. Hudson and Gazo each scored nine points for the Blue Devils while Darius Hall had six points. Bray cautioned against fans expecting him to continue playing a two-platoon system the rest of the way. “I don’t know right now what we’ll do with that. It all depends who we’re playing and what we feel comfortable with,” said Bray. “We may do it some more, who knows. Tonight, I just wanted to keep fresh bodies in there. We’ve been playing seven or eight guys, and tonight I felt like we could do what we did with 10. I told them before the game we’d go two minutes on and two minutes off. We ended up doing it longer than two minutes, but the point was I told the kids there’s no reason they can’t play as hard as they can for two minutes at a time.” Cabot got 12 points from Jalen Brown while Hunter Southerland scored 10. The Blue Devils return to action Tuesday night at Jonesboro.