West Memphis snaps three-game losing streak to Marion
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
A loose ball that found its way to the midcourt line at Patriot Arena was a microcosm of last Friday night’s 57-44 West Memphis victory over Marion. The Patriots were already trailing the Blue Devils by eight points late in the third quarter when the ball ricocheted off of a West Memphis defender and shot back towards the circle of the timeline. Ready to field the turnover at the half-court circle was West Memphis defender Brandon Atwood. Atwood, who would go on to score five points, caught the ball on the fly, running with a full head of steam towards the end zone of the arena that boasts the “Flying Elvis” mascot on the south end of Patriot Arena. West Memphis’ number 12 soared through the air and threw down a vicious dunk that was good for the Blue Devils’ first lead of double-digits or more all night at 42-32. The Atwood play was part of an 18-2 West Memphis run that began with the visitors trailing by four points, and ended with West Memphis leading 45-32 entering the fourth quarter. “I know we’ve been working hard the past few days in practice, and we still have a lot of work to do,” said West Memphis head coach Larry Bray. “But, I am so proud of the effort that we gave out there tonight.” The effort of Bray’s team could not be denied as his hungry group of Blue Devils seemed to be quicker to loose balls and rebounds all night long. West Memphis won the battle of the boards 31-20, while forcing 15 Marion turnovers in the win, which snapped a three-game losing streak against their Crittenden County neighbors to the north. Still, despite those numbers, Marion had erased a 24-22 halftime deficit and turned it into a 30-27 advantage following an A.J. Latham lay-up with 4:15 left in the third quarter. From there, it was all Blue Devils. West Memphis would score the game’s next 10 points for a 37-30 lead. That advantage would snowball as West Memphis would force three Marion turnovers in the final 1:15 of the third quarter, including the Atwood dunk, to claim that 45-32 lead. “You want to win every basketball game, but you gotta come to play,” explains Marion head coach Irving Clay. “I saw it coming, I saw it coming all week. West Memphis wanted the game badder than we did and they exemplified it out there on the court. They played well as a team, they ran the offense, they had good spacing, and when it got down to it, they made free throws at the end of the game.” West Memphis opened the fourth quarter with that 13-point advantage, and despite making just one field goal in that quarter, the Blue Devils were able to protect their lead by knocking down 10 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter. Conversely, Marion trimmed the West Memphis lead to just seven points at 45-38 and 5:12 left in regulation, but the Patriots proceeded to miss all four of their free throw attempts after getting that close. Marion hit two of nine free throws in the fourth quarter. Things got worse for Marion when junior forward Shaun Doss fouled out of the game on a lay-up by Demorious Hudson. The bucket put the Blue Devils back up 47-38 with 2:15 left, while sidelining Marion’s leading scorer for the year for the remainder of the game. Doss would finish his night with six points and four rebounds. “We looked at the stats, and three of their players scored 51 of their 63 points in their last game,” Bray says. “That’s a lot of points for just three players, so our main focus was to make sure those guys didn’t score that many points again.” Marion’s “big three” of Doss, Latham and Marlon Warren led the Patriots in scoring once again, though it was considerably less than the 50 points that the trio combined to hit for in Marion’s 82-68 loss to Jonesboro last Friday night. West Memphis led 24-22 at the half, and the biggest lead for either team in the first two quarters came when Marion scored the first five points of the contest. Marion (10-9 overall, 5-3 7A/6A-East) was led by Latham’s 18 points, nine from Warren and six from Doss. West Memphis (12-9 overall, 5-3 7A/6A-East) got 17 points from Hughes native Robert Harris, 13 from Ahmere Albert and six from Martavious Johnson. Marion will host Cabot on Tuesday, while West Memphis welcomes Searcy. Each girls varsity game should tip at approximately 6 p.m.