High school hoops at its finest
Commentary By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
If you weren’t there by 6, good luck finding a seat.
Plymouth High School’s gymnasium was packed Tuesday night. And it was sweltering, making the drama just that much more intense.
People cramped into the gym to watch their beloved Vikings and Williamston Tigers battle on the hardwood. Those who couldn’t find a seat stood at either end along the baseline, a few scant feet away from the baskets.
Plymouth’s cheerleaders stomped their feet, waved their arms and bellowed out cheers. I wonder if anybody heard them. The fans were raucous throughout the game. It seemed as if their shouts bounced back and forth from one wall to the other.
There was smack-talking going on throughout much of the night. Not in-your-face put-downs, but good-natured ribbing between fans of the Vikings and fans of the Tigers.
They were well behaved. They were basketball savvy. They were fans of the game.
Boy, did they get their money’s worth on Tuesday.
As a delicious appetizer leading up to the entree, the Plymouth and Williamston girls took to the floor with first place in the Atlantic Conference on the line.
It was a special treat, featuring the state’s top two scorers.
They certainly didn’t disappoint.
Plymouth senior Whitney Stokes, the state’s leading scorer at 29 points a game, was nothing short of spectacular. She came out on fire, hitting 3-pointers, layups and runners off beautiful spin moves to give the Vikings an early lead.
Freshman sensation Katie Paschal, the state’s second leading scorer at 27 points a game, did all she could to bring her Tigers back. She hit from anywhere and everywhere on the court, whether wide open or covered like a blanket.
But in the end, Stokes and her 30 points were more than enough to offset Paschal’s 24 points as Plymouth cruised to a 69-50 win. The victory, aided by a staggering press implemented by head coach Ulysses Hooker, gave the Vikings first place in the conference.
There’s a good chance these teams will meet again in the conference tournament.
I’m hoping for the same from the Plymouth and Williamston boys’ teams.
There was more drama in this one than in an entire episode of 24.
Though Williamston was in second place and Plymouth third in the conference standings, the players hustled as if a state championship were on the line. That’s what rivalries will bring out in players.
Angelo Sharpless, the high-flying junior for the Vikings, was so revved up, he played to exhaustion. And that was in the first 16 minutes.
He found a second wind in the second half. Sharpless seemed to walk on wind throughout that second half.
With his team trailing, Sharpless plucked a loose ball off the ground and took a giant step before soaring toward, and above, the rim. He threw down a vicious two-handed dunk that not only shook the backboard, but shook the Plymouth fans into a frenzy.
Oh, it was on.
Down seven points, Sharpless broke free and rammed home another two-handed slam. He stole the ball moments later and came up with a dizzying reverse flush, pulling the Vikings within three to end the third quarter.
Sharpless continued his assault on the Tigers, and on the rims, in the fourth. His breakaway slam, where he seemed to be frozen in mid-air before unleashing a wicked tomahawk jam, made it a one-point game.
The teams went back and forth the rest of the way. When the Vikings scored, oftentimes coming off turnovers thanks to relentless pressure, the Plymouth fans would bounce up and down and point at the scoreboard.
When the Tigers scored, usually by the never-show-fear long range shooting of Jamel Moore, the Williamston fans would wave their arms and point at the scoreboard.
It was a game within the game.
Plymouth was finally able to gain the late momentum, thanks in large part to Sharpless and his mind-numbing display of slams, to take a 68-63 victory.
The two could possibly meet again in the conference tournament, which will be held Feb. 12-16 at Southside High School.
Maybe even a date in sectionals, which will be held Feb. 24 at Northside High School, is possible.
Now that would be the dessert.
I was left craving for more.
After all, it was bedlam. It was deafening. It was scorching. It was a blast.
It was high school basketball at its best.
Kevin Travis is the sports editor of the Washington Daily News. You may reach him at 940-4217 or by email at Kevin@wdnweb.com.