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Rush Springs —
It was the tale of two halves in the Black Diamond boys final Saturday night.
Velma-Alma stunned the Central High faithful in attendance as it climbed back from an 11-point deficit to corral the 60-55 victory. As Central High desperately tried to knock down a three-point shot to win the game when it was 58-55, Velma-Alma’s defense held strong and gave it the championship.
“What a great game for the fans, stressful for both coaches I’m sure,” Coach Kenny Bare said after the win. “At halftime I told them, ‘guys we have got to play better defense.’ I’m really proud of them.”
In the first half, Central High’s No. 3 couldn’t stop making threes.
Senior Kevin Harris seemed automatic from beyond the arc during Central High’s 41-30 first half hitting six of seven long balls. It was an unstoppable offense that was tough to watch from the sideline.
“I was like geez guys guard him,” Bare said. “He’s hot get on him. How could you leave him open? That’s what I was thinking.”
Harris only grabbed two points in the second half and when he got a chance to tie it at 58, his three bounced off the back rim. As Harris tore off his headband in disappointment, senior Connor Sullivan went to celebrate with his team. Named tournament Most Valuable Player, Sullivan scored 22 points and came up big on defense when the Comets needed him the most.
“He’s kind of like a Jack Russell. He’s full of energy and bouncing around like that all the time,” Bare said. “I was glad to see him have such a good game.”
A team with a tremendous size advantage, Velma-Alma plugged away on the inside throughout the first half. Senior Jaz Gayanich and Jake McGuire bruised their way to the basket forcing Central High to compact on defense. When it was available, Sullivan bounced outside for the open three, but with Harris sinking everything, it was too hard for the Comets to keep up.
Then Central High started slowing down and Velma-Alma used a 14-6 third quarter advantage to close the gap. The Comets closed out the game strong with sophomore Ryan Ross hitting free-throws to ice the game. His counterpart was sophomore guard Ian Hickman, who returned to the lineup after his second ankle injury of the season. However, Hickman struggled to find his shot and couldn’t make a big enough impact to spark the team to a win.