Rocked by the Hurricane

Third-quarter strike lifts Jonesboro to unbeaten season


Photographs by Mitchell PE Masilun

Jonesboro players celebrate after the Hurricane’s 74-57 victory over El Dorado in the Class 6A boys championship game Friday at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs. The Hurricane finished the season 32-0. More photos at arkansasonline.com/galleries.

HOT SPRINGS -- When El Dorado's top two players got blood on their uniforms Friday afternoon, unbeaten Jonesboro smelled blood like a shark in the water.

Junior Tony Hutson and senior Jonathan Adams both dropped in 15 points and the Hurricane scored 14 consecutive points in the third quarter to earn a 74-57 victory over the Wildcats on Friday afternoon in the boys 6A state championship game in front of 6,474 fans at the Bank of the Ozarks Arena.

Jonesboro (32-0) completed its first unbeaten season since the Hurricane finished 34-0 in 1954. It was Jonesboro's 13th state title and its second with Wes Swift as the team's head coach.

El Dorado (28-5) led 30-29 at the half and tied the game at 36-36 with 5:38 left in the third quarter on Czar Perry's 10-footer, but the hot-shooting Hurricane took over from there.

Desi Sills, hampered by illness for most of the week, scored 10 of his 12 points in a 2 1/2-minute span in the third quarter. Sills was held scoreless for the game's first 20 minutes, but when the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville commitment banked in a falling-down three-pointer at the 4:22 mark, it sparked Jonesboro to a game-deciding run.

"That's why Arkansas is recruiting him," El Dorado Coach Gary Simmons said. "Because he has that in him."

"Desi came in with the flu on Wednesday morning," Swift said. "He went to the doctor and he was diagnosed with [Influenza] strain B, which is not as tough as strain A. He's had fever since Wednesday. We let him shoot around in the arena on Thursday and it gave him chills."

Swift said Sills woke up at 7 a.m. Friday and asked to play.

"The doctors said it was OK if he played with a low-grade fever," Swift said. "He was playing with a 99 degree fever and it took him awhile to get going."

While Sills' shooting began to heat up, El Dorado was struggling to keep Daniel Gafford and Perry on the floor. Both players missed playing time in the third quarter while trainers worked to remove blood from their uniforms.

"You don't plan for your two best players to get blood on their jerseys at a big time," Simmons said. "Coach Swift, being the good coach that he is, while we had them [on the bench] trying to get them cleaned up, he put his press on for a couple of trips. We turned it over and all the momentum went right back to them."

Swift said he did not have to make his players aware that Perry was on the bench.

"Any time Czar's out of the game, I think our guys just kinda know that you can feast just a little bit harder because when the ball's not in his hands the other guards aren't near as confident," Swift said. "But it wasn't anything where we said 'OK, Czar's out, now we're going to do this.' "

Simmons said Gafford was not cut, but that there was blood on the 6-11 player's jersey. The coach said Perry had a cut on the back of his arm.

"We had all of the momentum in the world at that point," Simmons said. "But Czar had [blood] all over him. My assistants did as good of a job as they could and the trainers were working as hard as they could to remove it so we could get him back in."

Jonesboro turned the opportunity into a feeding frenzy.

The Hurricane produced three of its nine steals during its third-quarter outburst, turning a 36-36 tie at the 4:48 mark into a 50-36 lead with 2:11 showing.

Jonesboro led 52-38 after three quarters and El Dorado got no closer than 12 points in the final eight minutes.

Hutson came off the bench to share scoring honors with Adams. Senior Ben Harvey added 12 points. Jonesboro's bench outscored El Dorado's reserves 21-5, and Adams backed up his 15 points with a team-high 11 rebounds.

"If you give Jonesboro an inch they'll take a mile," Simmons said. "They're very talented. They're very well coached. The way some of those kids shot coming off the bench, they were hitting those threes and giving them a big spark when I thought we did a pretty good job against their starters. ... That was huge for them."

Jonesboro hit 26 of 57 (45.6 percent), but the Hurricane were 18 of 29 (62.1 percent) from the floor in the second half.

Perry, who picked up three fouls in the game's first seven minutes, led all scorers with 18 points while handing out four assists and Gafford -- a Razorbacks signee -- chipped in with 16 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.

EL Dorado hit only 10 of 29 (34.5 percent) shots in the second half and finished 23 of 52 (44.2 percent) for the game. The Wildcats also committed 16 turnovers compared to Jonesboro's seven.

Swift said one of the best things about completing an unbeaten season is that he and his players will be able to talk about it for the rest of their lives.

"It's special, there's no doubt about that," Swift said. "Jonesboro's basketball history is undeniably good. This is team that's going to be talked about for a long time."

Sports on 03/11/2017

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