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BLUE DEVILS PUNCH THEIR TICKET TO THE FINALS WITH WIN OVER MAUMELLE

Blue Devils punch their ticket to the finals with win over Maumelle

BILLY WOODS

WM School District | 3/9/2020

PHOTO CREDIT: West Memphis High School Athletics

As had been the case all day, there was a mad scramble for a rebound in heavy traffic, and as has been the case for the last four years, one Chris Moore came away with the possession.

Moore spotted his point guard, Jordan Mitchell near halfcourt and whizzed an outlet his way. With the West Memphis Blue Devils in clock-working mode, Mitchell saw an opening he couldn't resist.

As he penetrated the basket, Mitchell appeared to change his mind and back the ball out front.

But it was too good a moment to pass up.

So, Mitchell whirled a no-look behind-the-back pass to Moore for a dunk, and just like that the door was shut on Maumelle.

The Blue Devils punched their ticket to Hot Springs on Saturday with a 59-43 victory over Maumelle in the Class 5A state tournament semifinals.

Mitchell's dazzling pass which set the hundreds of West Memphians in attendance on fire, gave the Blue Devils (26-4) a 56-48 lead with just 1:57 left in the game.

The whole exhilarating day for Blue Devil Nation was defined by Mitchell, who had the most electrifying dunk of the tournament when he grabbed yet another outlet from Moore, found another open lane on the other end and threw down a vicious tomahawk dunk over Maumelle's Dreshaun Doyne midway through the fourth quarter.

"I just felt the moment when it happened," an exuberant Mitchell said. "On the pass, I know Chris is always behind me, and all I ever have to do with him is get it to him. He always knows what to do with it."

Moore put up another double-double as he led the Blue Devils with 17 points and 15 rebounds to go along with 6 blocks and 2 assists.

For the 6-foot-7 senior who is bound for Auburn next season, it will be his second trip to the state championship game in his career. Jonesboro handed the Blue Devils a 55-49 loss two years ago, and Moore wants to make sure his high school career ends with glory.

"I'm so blessed to be a Blue Devil and to be going to the finals again," said Moore. "But this time we've got to bring it all home."

The team that had to grind out a 66-57 win in overtime 24 hours earlier against Sylvan Hills, made sure the semifinals were going to be an easier ride for its fans.

Maumelle (24-8) led just once in the game, and that was 13-12 near the end of the first quarter. And that lead lasted all of 35 seconds when Moore sank a mid-range jumper with 4 seconds left before the buzzer to give the Blue Devils a 14-13 lead after one quarter.

Playing ahead all day was the formula that West Memphis head coach Marcus Brown emphasized all morning before the game. Brown has been battling the sniffles all week in Russellville and before he addressed the media he was already eager to head back to West Memphis.

"As soon as I get back home I'm going to Coast to Coast (minor medical)," Brown said. "I need a cocktail shot to get rid of this stuff.

"Getting out in front early was crucial as we learned (on Friday). We let a young Sylvan Hills get some confidence early against us. You can't give a young team confidence in a game of this magnitude because they don't know they're not supposed to be in that spot. We didn't want to let Maumelle fire away, fire away."

Although the Blue Devils led the Hornets most of the day, it wasn't until late in the third quarter before they pulled away.

With the score 33-25 West Memphis, Blue Devil senior Jaylon Lewis hit two free throws and then Mitchell drove the lane and completed a three-point play to make it 38-25.

The quarter ended in fashion when senior Kyalan Sykes drained a three-pointer with 1 second left to give the Blue Devils a 41-27 lead after three quarters.

The fourth quarter was nothing but a show for the Blue Devil faithful.

"Mitchell has thrown that (no look, behind-the-back) before," said Brown. "Thank God Chris caught it. Nothing Jordan does surprises me because he's talented as heck."

The Blue Devil defense was also solid all day, limiting Maumelle to 31 percent shooting overall from the floor and just 2 of 13 from the bonus arc.

West Memphis shot 55 percent and it was 4 of 10 from the three-point circle.

Interestingly, the Hornets became the first team to outrebound West Memphis since late November, by winning the battle of the backboards 24-23.

Mitchell finished with 13 points and 5 assists while Lewis played a strong game with 12 points. Sykes and reserve Deon Williams scored 5 apiece for the Blue Devils.

Maumelle got 12 points from Nico Davillier and 11 from Courtney Lawrence.

At post time, the Blue Devils are awaiting the winner of tonight's other boys semifinal game between Jacksonville and Marion.

A Marion upset would create a first-ever all-Crittenden County championship game.
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