West Memphis High School Athletics


Blue Devils slide past slow-paced Jonesboro 47-43


WM School District | 1/21/2020

PHOTO CREDIT: West Memphis High School Athletics

One look at Jonesboro's scores this season is all it took for Marcus Brown to know what the Hurricane's plan would be Tuesday night.

After beating Greene County Tech 48-37 last Friday night, it became obvious head coach Wes Swift's team would slow the pace and lock down on defense as it took on the West Memphis Blue Devils on Tuesday night at Lehr Arena.

Both materialized, but in the end it was just too much Chris Moore as the Blue Devils turned back the Hurricane 47-43.

Moore scored 15 points and hauled in 18 rebounds, but it was his third block of the game that proved to be the play that defined the night.

With West Memphis (14-3 overall, 4-0 in the 5A-East Conference) leading just 43-41 and just 30 seconds left to play, Jonesboro's Shamar Pitts found himself all alone underneath the basket for what looked like an easy layup.

Out of nowhere emerged Moore, who didn't go for a Pitts head fake. Moore then deflected Pitts' shot and also came down with the ball. Pitts had no other recourse but to foul Moore with 28.8 seconds to play.

"That was a big play, but that's what Chris does," explained West Memphis head coach Marcus Brown. "The key was not going for the head fake."

Swift's slow-down tempo on offense made for some scary moments for Blue Devil fans. West Memphis trailed 21-15 at halftime, making only 6 of 25 shots from the field for 24 percent.

"We absolutely were prepared for a slower pace," said Brown. "At halftime, the message was we've worked too hard all year to lose this game. What we talked about was turning up the pressure on defense. It allowed us to get some stops and some turnovers."

The Blue Devils created 16 Jonesboro turnovers, four in each quarter.

West Memphis outscored Jonesboro 20-5 in the third quarter to restore order and take a 35-26 lead into the fourth stanza.

But emboldened with Moore on the bench with three fouls, the Hurricane got a big three-pointer from Kelyn McBride, who led all scorers with 20 points. Later, the Golden Gang cut the West Memphis lead to 39-38 on a spin move by Amarion Wilson with 2:41 to play.

On the ensuing trip down the floor, Blue Devil senior guard Immanuel Hoard, who added 11 points, took a deep three-pointer from the baseline that bounded high off the rim. Moore outleaped the field, tipped it in and was fouled on the play.

He, however, missed the free throw.

After Moore's heroics on the defensive end, the Blue Devils had made just 4 of 11 from the free-throw line. But with Moore's two makes and then two more from Hoard with 5.3 seconds to go, the Blue Devils managed a still dismal 7 of 15 from the charity stripe.

"We've done about all we can do to practice free throws," said Brown. "We run when we miss them in practice, and we've tried all kinds of little tricks. But it just comes down to you gotta make them during the game."

Even with Moore's two free throws at the 28.8 second mark, Jonesboro still had two attempts to tie the score. Hoard blundered with a foul on McBride, who swished his two foul shots to make it 45-43 with 8.6 seconds to play.

West Memphis then turned it over on the inbounds play.

But McBride tried a difficult horizontal inbounds pass, and threw it out of bounds.

With Moore skying for the tough rebounds, the Blue Devils outboarded Jonesboro 21-16. The Blue Devils were credited by Brown for their defense, which limited Jonesboro to 16 of 44 shooting for 36 percent.

Deon Williams came off the bench to score 7 points for the Blue Devils while Akyrahn Hazley had 6 points and 3 blocks.

Jonesboro also got 11 points from Jesse Washington and 9 from Wilson.

With the win, the Blue Devils hold first place all to themselves in the 5A-East Conference. They will travel to Paragould on Friday.