File Photo/Kevin Pearcey

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 25, 2001

SUPER SOPH: Goshen’s Kendaris Pelton was named Tournament MVP following the

Eagles’ win over Southern Choctaw.

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No. 3 Goshen downs Indians, 70-62, advancing to Class 2A Final Four


Sports Writer

MOBILE – Throughout the 2000-2001 basketball season, the third ranked Goshen High School Eagles have been searching for respect throughout the state of Alabama heading into last week’s Class 2A Boy’s Southwest Regionals.

With most of the attention devoted the teams such as Montgomery’s St. Jude, R.C. Hatch and Keith, many high school basketball experts gave the Eagles very little chance of reaching the Final Four going into the postseason.

Even after the Pirates fell to Keith in the sub-regionals on Feb. 16, the Eagles were considered an afterthought with two other lower ranked teams given a better chance at advancing to the Magic City.

Now look who is left standing unblemished.

It is not the Capitol City glitz of the Pirates, but instead its the folks from the heart of peanut country headed to Birmingham, as the Eagles claimed a hard fought 70-62 victory over Southern Choctaw High School in the Southwest Regional finals at the Mitchell Center Friday afternoon.

With the win, the Eagles advanced to Birmingham where they will face Mars Hill Bible in the Class 2A State Semifinals at the Jefferson Civic Center Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. The winner will face the survivor of the Barbour County-Section game in the championship game Thursday night at 6 p.m. Mars Hill Bible defeated Tanner 78-72 in the Northwest Regional final at Hanceville Friday.

In the first quarter, the Eagles (23-2) got off to a fast start as they jumped out to a 19-8 lead thanks to sophomore Kendaris Pelton scoring eight points in the opening stanza. Averick Rogers also highlighted the period with a three pointer.

The second period saw the Indians (23-9) slowly but surely getting back into the game by forcing turnovers and penetrating the paint. Trailing 29-17 with two minutes remaining in the first half, the Indians went on a 8-2 run cutting the deficit to 31-25 lead with 15 seconds left until Pelton hit a layup off a missed free throw to increase the deficit to eight points at intermission.

On the first possession of the second half, Rogers nailed a three-pointer to increase the lead to 11 points until the Indians went on a 12-4 run to cut the deficit to 40-37 with three minutes left in third quarter. Despite senior point guard Reggie Ginyard picking up his fourth foul early in the period, the Eagles managed to survive the storm as they took a 48-43 lead going into the final quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles started to beat the SCHS traps as they were able to get numerous easy baskets in transition. Senior Jeremy Berry scored eight of his 10 points in the final eight minutes as the Eagles went on a 16-6 run to increase their lead to 64-49 with 2:07 remaining in the game. During the spurt, one of the key moments of the game took place when senior forward Marques Hill fouled out with a double-double scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 rebounds for the Indians.

However, the Indians made one last run as they went on a 8-2 cutting the deficit to 66-59 with 55.1 seconds remaining in the game. Following a Goshen turnover, the Indians had a chance to cut the deficit to four points before Shawn Causey aired a three pointer. As a result, Rogers hit two free throws following an outstanding save by Berry to increase the lead to nine points. Berry put the game with out reach with a rebound and a dunk bringing the GHS crowd to its feet as the Eagles earned the victory.

Goshen head coach Major Lane said he was very proud of what his team has accomplished this season.

"For my players it’s a big deal for them, but for me it’s business as usual because I want us to bring back the state championship," Lane said. "If we win the first game (in Birmingham), we’ve got a chance to bring it home. Our guys have earned respect by playing smart and intelligent basketball. That’s been our forte all year. We’re very confident because these guys play well as a team and they don’t care who scores as long as they win."

Lane said there were several keys that led to the victory for the Eagles over the Indians.

"The keys were that we were patient getting the ball to the people who could score and play hard nosed defense," Lane said. "The free throw shooting and rebounding were important because we had to have it. That’s what we ended up doing."

For the contest, the Eagles held their own on the boards against the tenacious Indians and were only outrebounded 42-41. However, the biggest statistic of the game was free throw shooting as the Eagles converted 22-of-28 free throws for 78.6 percent compared to just 4-of-12 at the charity stripe. The Eagles won the game despite hitting just two three-pointers throughout the afternoon.

Pelton, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while senior Jamar Tucker scored 17 points and hauled down 11 rebounds. Rogers contributed 12 points while Ginyard finished with four points and eight rebounds. Shawn Causey led the Indians with 18 points while Bernard McGrew had 14 points in a losing cause.

However, Lane said Ginyard’s contributions cannot be found on the stat sheet.

"He showed a lot of poise and handled the ball well because he’s mentally tough," Lane said. "He came back from reconstructive knee surgery this summer and has shown great senior leadership for us."

Pelton, who averaged 28 points per game at Mobile, said he knew how important his offensive contributions would be going into the regionals with Tucker expected to be double teamed.

"It feels really good," Pelton said. "I knew I had to step up. I really had a mismatch in my favor and Coach Lane told me to get the ball. We worked in practice this week on breaking the trap. We knew that was the key to the game because they were quick but they didn’t matchup well against us on the inside."

As far as the respect factor is concerned, Pelton said he feels like the Eagles finally deserve statewide recognition with a trip to the Final Four coming up this week.

"I knew the state media didn’t have a lot of respect for Goshen and we didn’t want to go home early like we did last year. We just have to do it and prove everyone we’re the new Goshen Eagles. It means that the hard work has paid off."