Jae. S. Lee/The Tennesseean
MURFREESBORO — Hampton used a lot of heart and a Valentine to get a date in the Class A state semifinals for the second time in four seasons.
The Bulldogs drove, drew charges, protected the boards in their active zone defense and got a game-high 21 points from 6-foot-3 junior post Stanley Valentine while defeating Nashville’s LEAD Academy 63-55 Thursday morning in the Murphy Center.
The Bulldogs (30-5) will play Memphis Mitchell (28-6) today at 3:45 p.m. (Eastern). Booker T. Washington (27-7) takes on Meigs County (31-4) in the other semifinal at 2:15 p.m.
Hampton built a 14-point lead midway through the third period, and ended the game on a 12-6 run after LEAD Academy got within two points with 41?2 minutes left.
“We’re so proud of our kids,” said third-year Hampton coach Ned Smith, who was an assistant in Jerry White’s final season in 2010-11 when the Bulldogs beat Summertown before losing to Lake County in the semifinals. “I mean, we just kept battling, even in that stretch where they got a big run and battled back. … I thought our team played real well, stuck with the game plan. We … sprinted back on defense. We pressed when we needed to and got stops and rebounded the basketball and blocked out really well.”
Hampton took a 43-29 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter when senior point guard Cody McClain found Cheyenne Camillo on the right wing for a transition 3-pointer. The trey triggered a roar from the large contingent of Hampton fans, who seemed to energize the Bulldogs while they withstood the athletic Panthers’ best punch in the fourth quarter.
Of course, Hampton gave its partisans plenty to cheer about, particularly Valentine and 6-foot-1 sophomore combo guard Colby Jones. Valentine was 9 of 14 from the field. He delighted the Carter Countians who made the trip with a transition dunk that put Hampton ahead 19-15 with 6:15 left in the second quarter.
“It felt great, felt amazing,” Valentine said. “I mean, our fan base – they’d done drove five hours; woke up at 4 a.m. just to come watch us play.”
Jones scored 18 points, made his lone 3-point attempt and tallied two steals. He was aggressive early, scoring 12 first-half points to help absorb the Bulldogs’ shaky start at the foul line. They missed seven of their first nine.
Jones drove for three of his first-half field goals. Two of those were mid-range bank shots and the other came via an athletic move in the lane that gave Hampton a 24-21 lead with 2:39 left in the second quarter.
“We came out in the first quarter and I thought we’s a little jittery,” Jones said. “But after that we had our fan base behind us and I believe we got all of it out. … We just stole the ball and saw opportunities on offense to drive. And we saw that they would foul if we pump-faked, and we just went at ‘em.”
Hampton finished 19 of 32 at the foul line; LEAD was 8 of 11. Twenty-six fouls were whistled against LEAD while 12 were called on the Bulldogs.
“There were a couple of calls that I think went the wrong way,” Panthers coach Matt Barksdale said, “but you can’t blame two or three calls on, you know, an entire game. … There were a lot of things we could’ve done better.”
Senior point guard Raymond Clay’s 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key capped a 20-8 run that got the Panthers within 51-49 with 4:34 left. McClain responded by driving to find Valentine twice with interior passes for baskets, the second of which stretched the lead to 57-50 with 1:55 left.
“We couldn’t let the air out of it,” Smith said. “They had a lot of pressure on us and we just spread the floor out and he got to the hole and made some great passes.”
McClain had a game-high six assists.
“He (McClain) is a good player,” Barksdale said. “He’s got a good handle on the ball. I mean, he did great job, especially late, getting into the lane and dishing to Valentine.
“And the Jones kid had a really good game. He’s impressive. I mean, he was getting into the lane whenever he wanted to.”
Tristan Robinson, a 6-foot senior, had 10 points and a team-high six rebounds for Hampton. Valentine had five rebounds, two steals and a block.
“Valentine is a freak athletically,” Barksdale said.
Camillo had four of Hampton’s eight steals. LEAD made 16 turnovers while Hampton committed nine. Hampton’s full-court trapping pressure caused a lot of havoc, as did its zones thanks to superior perimeter length. The Panthers attempted 17 treys (they made five) while Hampton finished 2-for-7 behind the arc.
“They did a great job in their zone,” Barksdale said. “They did a good job of keeping us out of the lane. We ended up taking a lot more jump-shots than we typically want to.”
Valentine credited Robinson and Camillo for drawing charges and lauded Tyler Moody’s active reserve role (four points, four rebounds). Valentine praised Hampton’s preparation, too.
“Coach Smith stressed … running the floor, rebounding, being stronger all week long,” Valentine said. “He prepared us pretty much perfectly for this game. We’ve known all year that if we do what he says we’re gonna come out on top.”comments powered by Disqus