By JOEL COLEMAN
ACKERMAN – Down five points at halftime to Ackerman on Tuesday night, Eupora head boys basketball coach Bryant Thomas was frustrated.
During the intermission, Thomas shared a few thoughts with his Eagles that changed the course of the evening before Eupora bounced back to claim a 62-47 road win over the Indians.
“When we went in at half, I told the guys the way I felt about everything and I walked out on them,” said Thomas. “Before that, I just challenged them to come out and play the second half and they did.”
Derrick Jones scored 17 of his game-high 29 points after hearing the brief instructions from Thomas at the half, helping Eupora (2-5) completely turn the game in the Eagles’ favor.
“I just told everybody that I was going to the paint,” said Jones. “They gave it to me. They all kind of believe in me a little bit so I try to lead them right.”
Jones’ performance essentially nullified a solid first half of play from the Indians (3-4), who had jumped out to a 20-13 lead after one quarter.
The Eagles closed the gap to 35-30 by the end of the second period before ripping off a game-changing, 14-1 run over the first four-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter.
With 3:30 left in the third stanza, Ackerman’s Spencer James finally sunk the Indians’ first field goal of the second half, but all the momentum had already swung in favor of the Eagles.
“In the paint, we started getting in a hurry,” said Ackerman head coach Gary Beals. “Eupora out-rebounded us. We got frustrated. It was like we were trying to play volleyball. We just didn’t play well.”
It was all an unfortunate turn of events for the Indians after such a promising start to the night.
Matthew Davis, who led Ackerman with 23 points, scored 15 of those prior to the intermission.
James finished with 14 for the Indians, 10 of which came in the first two quarters.
The Indians scored just 12 total second-half points as Thomas adjusted his team’s defensive strategy.
“We were playing a different defense in the first half and had to change it up the way Ackerman was scoring,” said Thomas. “We just kind of took on that challenge and came out and played.”
Though Eupora’s efforts improved across the board in the third and fourth quarters, it was Jones who set the tone with both his rebounding and scoring abilities.
“(Jones) is a guy this team depends on,” said Thomas. “He’s got times where he can get a little wild, but he is a game-stopper. He can really play the game when his mind is into it.
“When he steps up like he did in the second half, he’s a great player.”
Beals said Jones’ big night didn’t catch Ackerman off guard.
“We knew coming in that he was pretty good,” said Beals of Jones. “He just out-hustled us and outworked us.”
How much the play of Jones and the rest of the Eagles had to do with Thomas’ halftime challenge and walkout is debatable, but Eupora’s first-year coach knows one thing for sure – it’s a tactic he intends on trying again.
“I’m going to start trying that every game from here on out,” said Thomas.
ACKERMAN – The Lady Indians overcame 21 total team turnovers to defeat the Lady Eagles.
Nikki Ford’s double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds paced Ackerman, who improved to 4-3 with the win.
Eupora fell to 3-4.
Beals said he was impressed with how his Lady Indians overcame their mistakes to come away with the victory.
“We turned it over too many times, but we’re learning,” said Beals. “We’ve got to handle the ball a little bit better, but I was pleased.”
Bridgette Robinson added 13 points to aid Ackerman’s offensive attack, while Iasia Lee put up 10.
Eupora was led by Jaliyaah Patterson’s 12-point performance.
Haley Robinson scored 11 for the Lady Eagles.
Still, it wasn’t enough for head coach Curtis Ford’s Eupora team.
“We haven’t shot the ball very good here lately,” said Ford. “We shot the ball, but couldn’t get it in there. We did create a lot of turnovers, so that was a positive thing, but we didn’t block out very well on the boards and gave up too many second chances.”
While Ackerman capitalized on Eupora’s lack of rebounding, Beals said the Lady Indians also benefited from the play of several returning players that have helped his team’s depth.
“Tiara Conner played in her first game and did a great job for us off the bench,” said Beals. “Paige Triplett came in and gave us a little spark, too.
“I’ve only been able to play six or seven girls, but tonight I was able to play nine because we got some people back playing.”
With several additional weapons at his disposal, Beals saw his team in control most of the night. Ackerman built a 15-2 lead after one quarter of play and held a 24-17 advantage at the half.
The Lady Indians stretched their lead to 10 points at 38-28 by the end of the third quarter before putting things away in the fourth.