Photographs by Mitchell PE Masilun
Baptist Prep celebrates after winning the boys Class 4A state championship Saturday at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs. It was the sixth state title for the Eagles.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
HOT SPRINGS — Experience mattered in the Class 4A boys state championship game Saturday afternoon.
The Baptist Prep Eagles won their third consecutive state championship, rolling to a 76-52 victory over the Jonesboro Westside Warriors at Bank of the Ozarks Arena.
Baptist Prep (30-6), which defeated Malvern in the 2016 final and Pea Ridge in last year’s title game, picked up the school’s sixth championship (1997, 1999, 2009, 2016, 2017, 2018).
“It is hard to win three championships in a row,” Baptist Prep Coach Brian Ross said. “Kids come in and come out every year. We’ve built a culture here where these guys know what the expectations are, and they’re supposed to step up and win. They did it.”
Junior guard Issac McBride scored 26 points, including 20 in the first half, to lead the Eagles. Baptist Prep shot 60.4 percent (29 of 48) from the floor and made 7 three-pointers.
“He stepped up right from the start. He set the tone,” Ross said of McBride.
Senior forwards James Singleton and James Renshaw finished with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Singleton and Renshaw also each grabbed eight rebounds to help the Eagles outrebound the Warriors 34-22.
A week after needing Mc-Bride’s 30-foot buzzer-beater to eliminate Riverview 42-40 in the Class 4A semifinals in Brookland, the Eagles didn’t need any late heroics Saturday. Instead, the Eagles played their most complete game of the Class 4A state tournament.
Baptist Prep shot 56.5 percent (13 of 23) to lead 37-28 at halftime.
Jonesboro Westside (26-7) was 2 of 11 from the floor in the first quarter and went 9 of 20 (45 percent) in the first half, including 7 of 13 from three-point range.
Overall, the Warriors shot 31.9 percent (15 of 47) and went 9 of 30 from three-point range. Junior guard Avery Felts, who entered Saturday’s game averaging 26.3 points per game, was held to a season-low 7 points on 2-of-10 shooting.
“That’s crazy. Avery is a great, great player. I wouldn’t have believed you if you would have told me we would have held him to seven points before the game,” Ross said. “We made an adjustment to our zone this week. Credit to these guys. They came in and did it flawlessly from the start.”
Warriors Coach Mark Whitmire said it wasn’t his team’s night.
“It’s not common for us,” Whitmire said. “Tonight, they didn’t fall. We got here on hot shooting and good play. You want to do it every night out, but you have to tip your hat to Baptist Prep. They did a good job.”
The Eagles led 6-0 in the opening two minutes with McBride hitting two three-pointers, forcing Whit-mire to call timeout.
McBride’s third three-pointer of the first quarter made it 13-3 Baptist Prep, then sophomore forward Brooks Spoon scored for a 17-6 advantage. Whitmire called his second timeout of the quarter at the 1:51 mark.
Baptist Prep led 19-6 at the end of the first quarter. McBride’s three-point play stretched the lead to 24-9 with 5:43 left in the second quarter.
Jonesboro Westside cut the lead to 29-21 on senior forward Gage Sheffield’s three-pointer. But McBride’s falling three-pointer and ensuing free throw extended the Eagles’ advantage to 35-21 with 1:24 left before halftime.
“It’s all of these guys and the coaching staff who gave me these opportunities,” said McBride, who averaged 24.5 points per game entering Saturday. “They said, ‘Get the ball to Issac.’ I’m not trying to be selfish, but I knew I could go make a play for my teammates.”
The Eagles continued to roll in the second half.
McBride’s steal and layup stretched the lead to 48-32. Baptist Prep led 53-38 entering the fourth quarter, then freshman guard Daniel Cobb hit two three-pointers to push the Eagles’ advantage to 63-42 with 6:06 remaining.
Sheffield led the Warriors with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Sophomore guard Riley Felkins added 12 points.
When asked whether he’s ready to go for a fourth consecutive state championship in 2019, McBride admitted it was too early to think about that feat.
“We’re going to enjoy this one,” Ross said.
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