Boys Basketball: Beechcroft Cougars edge Walnut Ridge Scots for City League championship

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Beechcroft celebrates after beating Walnut Ridge 64-62 in the City League championship game Feb. 20 at East.

Following a shortened regular season and a late change involving one of the squads scheduled to play for the City League championship, the Beechcroft and Walnut Ridge boys basketball teams competed in a drama-filled title game Feb. 20 at East. 

The Cougars, who won the City-North Division to reach the championship game for the first time since 2018, originally were slated to face City-South champion Africentric, but the Nubians were unable to play because of COVID-19 protocols. 

The Scots proved to be more than a worthy opponent, rallying from a double-digit, first-half deficit to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Beechcroft escaped with a 64-62 victory despite playing much of the second half without junior forward Amani Lyles because of foul trouble. 

Lyles, who came in averaging 22 points, picked up his fourth foul with 6 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third quarter and with his team leading 29-26. 

Despite his absence, the Cougars led 44-40 at the end of the third before the Scots took a 47-46 lead with 5:47 remaining. Beechcroft answered with a 10-2 run after Lyles’ return that included one 3-pointer apiece from Jamari Strickland and Javo Jordan. 

“The funny thing is in practice, we have Lyles go against the main guys if we ever get into a situation where we’ve got to play without him,” Cougars coach Humphrey Simmons said. “Today we were in that situation and they were prepared and made it happen.”

Beechcroft, which got 18 points from J.J. Simmons, went 7-0 in the City-North and improved to 9-0 overall.

Beechcroft's Demetrious Forte goes up for a shot against Walnut Ridge's Na'Varion Adams during the first half of the City League championship game Feb. 20 at East.

Ta’Von Bush had 24 points for the Scots, including a basket with 22 seconds to go to cut it to 63-60.

Strickland then made the second of two foul shots with 9.1 seconds left to make it 64-60. Bush scored again with 2 seconds left, but the Scots were out of timeouts and the clock ran out. 

“I like how they reacted (when I was out),” said Lyles, who fouled out with 1:49 to go and finished with 12 points. “They played hard and did everything they could. It means a lot.” 

Beechcroft's Antwoin Reed tries to block the shot  of Walnut Ridge's Ta'Von Bush during the second half of the City League championship game Feb. 20 at at East.

Walnut Ridge lost to Africentric 54-53 on Jan. 29 and finished 6-1 in the City-South, while the Nubians went 7-0 to advance to the City final for the first time since 2013.

The Scots, who are 6-3 overall, found out Feb. 18 that they would get another chance at the City title after winning it last season. 

They trailed 26-16 with 2:10 to go in the second quarter before closing the first half on a 9-0 run. 

“When we faced adversity early in the year when we were down, we wouldn’t have made the comeback we did today, so it was good to see us making those fights,” Scots coach Chuck Jefferson said. “All credit to Beechcroft because their second-chance points killed us and our timely turnovers killed us. And hats off to (Africentric coach) Mike Bates and that staff. We talked to them before this game and we feel for those guys.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek