By MATTHEW STEVENS
Junior forward Kendrin Yates gets to go to school today as the kid who had 35 points and led his team to the next round Class A North State playoffs.
Yates, who was one short of his career high and eclipsed his season average in the first quarter, had three dunks in the first quarter and grabbed 20 rebounds Tuesday night in West Oktibbeha's 68-63 victory over Shaw.
"Yates has been carrying us and we got a guy right now who's intensity level is so high right now – you got to get him the ball," West Oktibbeha head coach Danny Crawford said. "He's a heck of an athlete and I'm just so proud of him."
Yates had 20 points after the first 8 minutes of play and his only bucket of the second quarter was a half-court heave that found the bottom of the net to send the Timberwolves up 36-33 at the halftime intermission.
"My opponent was a mismatch for me so I definitely called for the ball more," Yates said.
After Shaw had made a second-quarter run to take its first lead of the night, Yates let the ball roll to his feet and split a double team before launching a shot just inside the halfcourt line that didn't even hit any rim. Before the halftime period began, Yates' teammates mobbed the junior forward at center court.
"I'm going to try and go all the way and our goal this week is to be 3-0 and even after the loss to Okolona, we thought that's possible," Yates said. "After seeing film of Shaw, I thought it would be a blowout but if you're in the playoffs at this point - you're a good team and you'll fight."
Shaw head coach Anthony Davis said one of the biggest aspects of his team's loss was the Hawks' inability to keep West Oktibbeha's 6-foot-4 forward off the charity stripe as Yates went 16-of-22 from the free-throw line
"When you're shooting that many free throws, you're supposed to have that many points," Davis said. "When you don't get to the bonus in a whole half and they only have three fouls in the fourth quarter, something is terribly wrong."
Not to be outdone but West Oktibbeha guard Dantaveous Crawford contributed his fifth career triple-double with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. Crawford, the coach's nephew, did most of his damage slicing through the Shaw 2-3 zone defense for easy baskets in the lane.
Shaw was led by the 22 points from Andrea Pruitt but no other Hawks players reached double digits.
Tuesday night marked the sixth consecutive 20-plus point total from Yates and his ninth double-digit output in 11 games dating back to Christmas.
"Every since Jan. 22, Yates has been getting me 24 (points) and 15 (rebounds) every night," Crawford said. "To think he's got another year to work harder in this program, he's an awesome talent."
The victory for West Oktibbeha (21-8) puts them two games away from the destination they've been talking about since the playoffs began last week – the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
"I told my kids if you get me to Friday, then it's on my shoulders to get to Jackson but like I've said before I love our bracket and our path to get there," Crawford said.