AC boys upend Hillcrest, now in South State final

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 1, 2004

JACKSON &045; There were a little more than three minutes left before halftime and Adams County Christian School head coach John Gray’s belt-clipped cell phone was lighting up.

Who could be calling in the biggest game of the year, during a tight MPSA Class AAA South State semifinal matchup against host Hillcrest Christian, nonetheless?

Turns out it was Gray’s daughter-in-law, who had forgotten the Rebels were on the floor Friday night.

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However, after AC came from behind in overtime to clip the Cougars 70-67, anyone claiming to be a John Gray acquaintance was using up his free nights and weekends to send congratulations.

&uot;They never would quit. I’m so proud of them,&uot; Gray said of his bunch, who face Jackson Prep, a 71-57 winner against Central Private Friday, for the South State title at 7:30 p.m. today. &uot;We showed a lot of character tonight when we could’ve given up at times in the third quarter, but we kept at it.&uot;

There were plenty of mind traps the Rebels had reason to fall into: a 10-point loss during the regular season in Natchez to the Cougars; banners that boasted three of the last four MPSA Overall titles in the Hillcrest gym; and, maybe most white-knuckling, a hostile crowd bent on seeing their Cougars, albeit a different corps, remain on top of the MPSA basketball world.

However, AC fell prey to none of those distractions. The Rebels watched Hillcrest notch the first six points during the four minutes of free basketball before outscoring them 12-3 during the final two minutes.

Down 64-58, AC backup guard Brent Dossett, who played brilliantly, drove hard to the rack for two to slice the gap to four with 1:47 remaining.

The Cougars got the ball into the front court where head coach Wade Heigle signaled for a timeout. Hillcrest’s inbounds pass went out to the time line in order to set the offense up.

&uot;I knew we got behind during regulation by not playing smart basketball,&uot; Heigle said. &uot;Even when we got the lead, I didn’t feel safe because we didn’t seem to be into it mentally. In the overtime they got us.&uot;

However, Rebel senior guard Glenn Williams leaped and stole the ball away from Hillcrest’s Kyle Cauthen and drove the length of the court for a layup. Suddenly, it was AC’s fans brimming with confidence, despite their boys still trailing by a deuce.

&uot;I saw where he was looking at early and I telegraphed the pass, and I got lucky,&uot; said Williams of the key play. &uot;I actually made a right-handed layup. I’m glad we came out with a win.&uot;

Williams finished with a game-high 23 points to lead four AC players in double figures, as Dossett and Dustin Case chipped in with 13 apiece and Casey Gould added 12.

The Cougars’ Brian Butler failed to increase his team’s lead at the free-throw line, but Hillcrest caught a break when Williams was whistled for traveling.

But the Cougars &045; looking like the ones fighting karma &045; could not hold on to the ball. Case was on the spot and hit Williams on a run-out to tie the score with 41 ticks left.

On the ensuing play, the hard-nosed Williams, who was everywhere, snuck up behind Cauthen and punched the ball into Case’s awaiting arms.

He gave it back to Williams for the easy layup and a 66-64 AC lead.

&uot;I hate to single out any of the players, but Glenn is the type of leader every team needs,&uot; Gray said. &uot;He stays out there and gives 100 percent all the time. They all did tonight.&uot;

Williams, who commended Dossett and Case for their clutch free throws down the stretch, played most of the second half with four fouls.

It was a predicament that forced the expressive youngster to rein in his in-your-face style, something he was obviously uncomfortable with.

&uot;I tried to lay off a little bit, but I couldn’t let up too much because that’s not the way I play,&uot; Williams said.

While Williams battled foul trouble, Hillcrest’s Chandler Pleasant led his team back from a nine-point second half deficit.