their composure after losing a 14-point lead is what keyed Bolton’s boys basketball team to their first victory over Arlington this season and clinch third place in the District 14-AAA tournament at Cordova on Monday.
The Wildcats held on after Arlington stormed back from a 40-26 deficit in the third quarter to tie the game at 53-53 with 1:24 left to play.
Arlington’s Ray Price hit a layup after Boston Miller stole the ball but Bolton’s Decorrian Kelly drilled a three-pointer three seconds later to give the Wildcats a 56-53 lead before Bolton expanded the lead to five, winning 60-55.
It was new for Bolton.
“Once it becomes tight, we usually give up the game in the last four minutes. This game we kept our composure and got the victory,” said Bolton Head Coach Harold Scott. “We made free throws and had some open buckets at the end. Our intensity on defense tonight led us to this victory.”
Twice Arlington had defeated Bolton during the regular season en route to a 14-14 record and a third place district finish of 4-4.
“They played with more aggression as a team and made fewer turnovers than we did,” said Scott of his team’s two previous losses.
This one was different from the start. The only lead Arlington had was 6-5 when Sam Wiseman hit a trey with 6:23 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats then raced to double-digit leads that grew to 12, 30-18, with 2:39 left in the second quarter on a trey by Ramon Ryan.
The Wildcats (18-10) sank six three-pointers with four in the first half. Arlington (14-15) had two treys in the game.
Bolton hit 14 of 17 free throws, all in the second half, while Arlington hit 13 of 22 free throws. Miller was fouled at the halftime buzzer and his two free throws cut the lead to 30-24.
Arlington switched from their signature “straight-up” man-to-man to a zone, press defense in third quarter because “they were driving by us” said Arlington Head Coach Don Deaton.
But the Wildcats went on a 10-2 run with another trey by Kelly, who finished the game with nine points, four free throws from Jaylon Gloster and two from Cory Griggs, expanding the lead to 40-26.
“I think the biggest thing, our guys kept their energy level up,” said Scott.
After a steal by the Tigers’ Jayce Lockhart that led to a Price put-back that cut the lead to 44-34 at the end of the third quarter, the Tigers’ energy level went up in the fourth quarter.
Price scored seven points before Wiseman made a steal and scored a layup. It was 48-44 with 3:09 left to play but Trevion Littlejohn scored three points and the Wildcats led 51-44.
Brogan Brewer scored a goal and hit a free throw and the Tigers were within 51-47. A steal and score by Miller made it 51-49 but Dylan Meed, who was Bolton’s high scorer with 11 points, used two free throws to give the Wildcats a 53-49 lead,
Garrett Golday, a senior post player who has signed with Tennessee Tech and scored 15 points, made it a 53-51 game with his basket with 2:09 left.
Price then tied the game.
“We decided to finally pick it up in the fourth quarter and we started pressing, got some steals and tied it up. Then we backed off and they hit a three and we couldn’t get another stop and we couldn’t score,” said Price, the senior captain who had a game-high 24 points.
It was his second highest total of the season. He scored 27 against Germantown the first game.
“We had to finally put in the effort. No one was putting in the effort until I finally told them let’s press and then we started getting some steals and everyone started playing defense. We started fouling and they hit some free throws and they got the lead back.”
Littlejohn’s free throw after a Bolton steal made it 58-53 before Price sank two back-to-back free throws to put the Tigers within 58-55.
Kelly capped the game with free throws with 15 seconds left.
“They deserved to win,” said Deaton. “We don’t deserve to win. We played hard for three minutes. That’s it. I don’t think anybody played good, not one person. We didn’t play hard. It’s simple. They beat us from the get go. They are quick and we couldn’t catch them.”
Price, who plans to play basketball in college but will decide after the season, learned that he needs to push himself and everyone else harder he said.
“We all need to step up. I need to step up as a leader and push everyone to step up.” He is one of five seniors.
The Tigers’ season is not over. They play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Brighton, which defeated Liberty Tech on Monday. Bolton, which finished fourth in the district’s regular season with a 3-5 record, will play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Liberty in Jackson.
Bolton got the message from Scott that when teams make runs not to get down or unfazed.
“We made the right shots at the right time. At the end, once we got them down, they sped up. We were able to take advantage of them making mistakes at the end. Tonight was mostly a team effort. We all played together, not as one individual. We played hard defensively.”
The Wildcats play multiple defenses incorporating a 2-2, 1-3, man-to-man.
“Most teams play us man-to-man because of our speed. They tried to slow it down with a zone. We made some shots that were very crucial at the beginning of the game that helped us out at the end of the game,” said Scott, who is in his fourth season as Bolton head coach.
A dunk by Golday had pulled the Tigers to within 11-10 with 3:16 left in the first.
In the second quarter, Bolton had 11 point leads twice as Kelly scored off a turnover (23-12) and when Jadarius Carter stole the ball, threw it to Griggs who scored a layup (27-16).
Bolton’s leading scorer Jevion Wiley, who averages 22 points in the motion offense that has two post players with four guards out, scored two against the Tigers. The Wildcats’ leading rebounder Jaylon Gloster scored nine points. His rebound and score had put the Wildcats on top 7-6 in the first quarter. Gloster sank five-of-five free throws.
Rebounding would be a key to defeat the Tigers said Scott before the game along with aggressive play and “hard work on defense.”
Griggs and Ryan also scored 9 points. Littlejohn added 7, Jadarius Carter 4.
For Arlington, Miller finished with 6, Brewer 3, Wiseman 7. Running a motion offense with four out and three out around two scorers, Price and Golday lead the Tigers’ scoring, each averaging 17 points.
Scott had two returning starters from last year. “I am proud of what we have accomplished this year,” said Scott, who called the victory “one step.”
“For us to make a deep run in the region tournament, our guys will learn from this and move forward. Liberty will be a good test for us. This will help us gain confidence.”
BILL SORRELL is a freelance writer for The Bartlett Express and other Journal West 10 Media LLC publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.