Charles Henderson boys earn first Final Four appearance since ‘05

Published 7:35 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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For the first time since 2005 – and just the third time in school history – the Charles Henderson Trojans are going to the Final Four, as they upended the Eufaula Tigers 61-56 in the Class 5A South Regional Finals on Wednesday.

The Trojans led for the majority of the first half and took a 15-13 lead into the second quarter. CHHS outscored Eufaula 20-16 in the second quarter and led by as many as 13 points in the half. The Tigers cut the lead to 35-29 at halftime.

Mario Davenport (23) hit a number of clutch shots against Eufaula. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

Eufaula won the third quarter 11-5 and tied things up 40-40 heading into the fourth quarter. After Eufaula took a 44-42 lead with just under five minutes left in the game, Jywon Boyd knocked down a three-pointer to put the Trojans up 45-44.

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Eufaula answered with a layup from Patrick Screws with 4:55 left to put the Tigers up 46-45. Charles Henderson answered when Mario Davenport drilled a jumper with 4:19 left, and drew a foul in the process. Davenport’s free throw gave the Trojans a 48-46 lead.

After Eufaula tied the score with 3:30 left, Cross drove down the lane and kicked the ball out to a wide-open Jayden Spearman, who buried a three-pointer to put CHHS up 51-48 with 2:30 left. Cross stole the ball on Eufaula’s next possession and with 1:55 left, Davenport converted a layup to extend the Trojan lead to 53-48.

Eufaula’s Yhonzae Pierre cut the lead to 53-50 with a jumper with just 1:47 left, and then Pierre stole the inbounds pass and knocked down a layup to cut Charles Henderson’s lead to one point with 1:30 left. On the ensuing possession, Tyler Carlton grabbed a rebound and knocked down a put-back layup along with drawing the foul. His free throw gave CHHS a 56-52 lead with just 1:15 to go.

Spearman stole a Eufaula pass and hit a layup with 33 seconds left to extend the lead to 58-52. Pierce hit a layup with 18 seconds left to cut the lead to 58-54 but Spearman knocked down a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to extend the Charles Henderson lead to 60-54. Pierre hit another layup with six seconds left to cut the lead to 60-56, but Spearman sealed the win with another free throw to give the Trojans their first region championship since 2005 by a score of 61-56.

Both teams were evenly matched throughout with both sides knocking down 22-of-53 shot attempts and 10-of-15 free throws. Charles Henderson, though, won the rebound battle 35-32 and forced 17 turnovers.

Austin Cross, Jywon Boyd and Tyler Carlton were named to the All-Tournament Team. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

Cross earned All-Tournament MVP honors as he totaled 18 points, three rebounds and three assists. Jywon Boyd and Tyler Carlton earned All-Tournament honors alongside Cross. Boyd finished the game with 12 points and three assists, while Spearman totaled 14 points and three steals. Carlton chipped in with seven points and 11 rebounds.

In just his second year at the helm, Tim Fayson’s Trojans earn a spot in the Final Four, for the first time since 2005, after making the Elite 8 for the first time in a decade in his first year.

“They played above and beyond my expectations,” an emotional Fayson said. “I’m happy for them, this about them. They wanted it and they worked for it and they made it happen.”

The Trojans will play in the Final Four for the first time since 2005. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

With such unprecedented success in just his second year, Fayson was quick to deflect the success to those that came before him.

“It means a lot but it means so much because of the people that came before me,” he emphasized. “It started with Coach (Eddie) McCarter, Coach (Calvin) Griffin, Coach (Carl) Hollis, Coach (Shelby) Tuck and Coach (Doug) Branson. Serving and working under all of those guys meant a lot to me.

“It’s not me, it’s about them and it’s about the team that I had last year that set the baseline for this and laid the groundwork for this, and all of those coaches I had the privilege of learning from.”

Charles Henderson will play the Northwest Regional Champion on March 1 in the State Semifinal at 4 p.m. in Birmingham.