It’s the small steps Southern Lab basketball coach Devan Clark hopes will produce bigger results.
For the first time this season the Kittens dressed out their anticipated roster going into the season and the result produced a season-high two-game winning streak.
“We’ll take the win,” Clark said. “We’ll learn from this. We’re getting guys healthy.”
Forward Jacob Watkins is atop that list, shaking off a lingering foot injury to score a game-high 23 points, helping Southern Lab to a 53-41 victory Saturday over The Church Academy in the Joel Hawkins Classic at Southern’s F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Jehovah-Jireh overcame a slow first half to win 65-48 against Hamilton Christian, while a big first quarter propelled Madison Prep past McKinley, 70-40. Tyrese Walker led the Chargers with 11 points.
SOUTHERN LAB 53, THE CHURCH ACADEMY 41: The Kittens (9-8) finally pulled away from the Crusaders (17-7) with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter, turning a 37-35 lead into a 47-35 advantage with 3:14 to play on Tyler Panyanouvong’s layup.
Jory Roussel’s second-chance opportunity in the lane stopped Southern Lab’s run and gave The Church Academy its first field goal in more than eight minutes going back to the third quarter.
The Kittens were nearly flawless at the free-throw line in building their biggest lead (51-39) on 9 of 10 shooting with Quincy Mitchell making the last two attempts
Barber had all three of his 3-pointers in the second quarter when TCA rallied from a five-point deficit to tie the game at 26 before Tyler Guidry’s driving layup gave Southern Lab a 28-26 halftime lead.
There were four ties and two lead changes in the third quarter when the Kittens took the lead for good with just over two minutes to play on Watkins’ turnaround jumper.
“We needed a game like this and this was the first time we faced a shooter like this,” Clark said of TCA’s Ellison Booker, who topped the Crusaders with 13 points, including three 3-pointers. “To make the adjustment and go out and execute speaks volumes.”
JEHOVAH-JIREH 65, HAMILTON CHRISTIAN 48: Jehovah-Jireh’s Trenton Payne scored nine of his game-high 24 points during a pivotal 15-4 second-quarter run that enabled the Warriors to pull even at 30-30 at halftime.
“He’s our heart beat,” Jehovah-Jireh coach Dirk Ricks said. “Going to him in the post when we were down is something we’re used to doing. He got rolling, and we kept feeding him.”
Payne added a free throw and basket from Donald Johnson to snap the halftime deadlock and provide Jehovah-Jireh (18-9) with the lead for good at 33-30 less than two minutes into the third quarter.
The Warriors, who dropped a 65-53 decision Friday at reigning Division IV state champion Lafayette Christian, continued to roll with a steal and layup from Johnson, who finished with 14 points.
John-Paul Ricks followed with a pair of technical free throws and with three minutes left added back-to-back 3-pointers from the left wing to make it 44-32.
Jehovah-Jireh increased its 51-40 third-quarter lead into commanding 62-42 cushion with 2:35 left on Timothy Jackson’s layup.
“Midway through the second quarter we started to get into a defensive intensity and were able to get going offensively,” Ricks said.