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Paris’ Eddie Leal shoots from the outside as the Dragons attempt to reclaim the lead from Lee College with 1:04 to play in the first half of Saturday’s 81-73 Lee victory. The shot was no good, and Lee went on an 8-2 run for a 40-33 halftime lead. Other Paris players in the photo are Mo Mitchell under the basket and Mike Harmon (5) outside. Guarding Leal was 6-8 Lee sophomore amal Jones, who finished with a game-high 21 points. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
PARIS – The 81-73 loss by the Paris Junior College men’s basketball team to Lee College on Saturday was its third straight, as well as its seventh defeat in its last nine games.
Lee College coach Roy Champagne, in his 18th season as the school’s head basketball coach, was especially appreciative of the Rebels’ victory.
With the win, his Rebels improved to 12-6 on the season, but the 11 other victories came at home.
“This is our first road win of the season, so this is a heck of a first win,” Champagne told eParisExtra.com in a post-game interview. “And it’s never easy to win in Paris. I can probably count on one hand how many times we’ve won here, so it’s always good to win.
”Back on Nov. 23-24, Lee College was in Niceville, Fla., for a two-game tournament in which the Rebels lost to Chipola (now ranked No. 1 in the nation) 75-67 on Friday, then lost 80-78 to then-No. 2 ranked Northwest Florida the following day. “It took a 78-footer in overtime for them to beat us,” Champagne said.
Of Lee’s four other losses, only one was decisive: Kilgore won by 18 (75-57) on Dec. 1 in the Rebels’ only home loss this season. The other three defeats were on the road –by 69-68 at Baton Rouge on Nov. 7, by 69-66 at Navarro on Nov. 28, and by 88-81 at Trinity Valley on Jan. 5.
Saturday’s games ended the inter-zone play in Region 14, where each team in the North plays the seven South teams, and vice versa. Lee emerged from that with a 4-3 record, while Paris (now 8-10 overall) came out of it with a 2-5 record.
The Dragons are 1-3 at home and 1-2 on the road at the completion of inter-zone play, having beaten Lamar Port-Arthur in Paris and losing to Coastal Bend, Angelina and Lee. On the road, the Dragons opened league play by beating Blinn, then lost at San Jacinto and Jacksonville.
From now until the post-season Region XIV tournament March 6-10 at the Herrington Patriot Center at UT-Tyler, the seven teams in the North and the seven teams in the South will play a round-robin schedule against the others in their zone.
PJC has a conference high 10 losses against only 8 victories, and a 2-5 conference mark . That puts the Dragons in fifth place in the North, four games behind Navarro (6-1, 14-4), three games behind second-place Kilgore (5-2, 15-2) and two games behind Tyler (4-3, 13-4) and Trinity Valley (4-3, 13-5),
PJC coach Chuck Taylor admits he’s no longer thinking about the first-round bye that the Dragons have fought for in past seasons. A team has to finish first or second in the zone to get that.
Two teams from Region XIV will advance to the national tournament. The tournament champion gets an automatic spot, as does the tournament’s No. 1 seed this season. If those are the same team, then the tournament runner-up will get the second invitation to Hutchinson, Kan., from March 18-23.
Only the conference’s top 12 teams will be in the tournament. The two teams with the worst record will stay at home.
With his team mired in a losing streak, Taylor says his goal now is to just make the tournament and then try to put together four good games at the Herrington Patriot Center.
At 2-5, Paris has the 11th- best record, ahead of Bossier Parish (1-6), Blinn (1-6) and Panola (0-7). But there’s a silver lining, as Skipper Steely notes.
“Last time Roy (Champagne) beat us here at home, it was the third loss in a row at the end of the season,” recalls Steely, who has been following PJC basketball for many, many, many seasons.
“We simply, after people said PJC would be dead and gone in the first game of the tournament, ran off some 10 in a row to win the (2005) national championship, and I think 19 more the start of the next season. Roy laughed all that time saying ‘I was the last team to ever beat Paris.’ “
The Dragons had plenty of chances to right the ship with a win on Saturday, but were plagued again with missed wide-open shots from close in, poor defense, bad passes and other turnovers, many of them unforced.
Paris out-shot Lee from the field, hitting 25 field goals (eight 3-pointers) to 22 (five 3-pointers) for Lee. But the Rebels buried Paris at the free throw line, hitting 32-of-40 (80 percent), including 9-for-9 in the final 1:07 when Paris was fouling intentionally in desperation.
Paris (15-of-22) had 18 fewer chances and 17 fewer made at the free throw line, and that was the difference.
Jamar Jones led Lee with a game-high 21 points, including 9-of-11 free throws. Don Thomas added 16 points (6-of-6 free throws) and Chris Blake 14 (6-of-7 free throws).
Mike Harmon and Eddie Leal paced the Paris attack with 14 points each. Will Ransom added 12.
For the second straight game, PJC went with a young starting lineup – sophomore Leal and freshmen David Tucker, Delvin Dickerson, Sheldon Yearwood and Ransom.
Sophomore guard Anthony Adams, a two-time Region 14 Player of the Week last season, played just under 10 minutes of the first half and about four minutes of the second half.
Adams finished with 5 points after coming out after his pass sailed over a teammate’s head and out of bounds early in the second half. Taylor dressed him down in front of the PJC bench, and Adams sat for the remainder of the game.
“We had a little disagreement,” the coach said after the game. “I just thought the freshman was doing a better job, and that’s the direction we went at the time.”
Taylor said he was pleased with his team’s effort, “but there are still things that we need to do if we are to be the team we should be. I thought the effort of our young guys was good, but we’ve got to get our sophomores back to playing the way they’re capable of,” he said.
“Every time we got the ball out and got in transition we got something good. But in half court, we just turned the ball over far too frequently. There were situations where we guarded them well but then gave up the offensive rebound,” Taylor added.
In the first seven minutes on Saturday, the Dragons built a 12-8 lead on 3-pointers by Dickerson and Antonio Arnold, a two-pointer by Arnold, and Ransom’s monster stuff after a rebound and 2-of-4 free throws.
Lee then ran off seven straight points – four of them by Jamar and three by Blake. Leal answered with a two-pointer and Harmon with a 3-pointer for a 17-17 tie at exactly the midpoint of the first half.
Over the next two and a half minutes, Lee took advantage of Paris turnovers to go on a 9-0 run and the Rebels led 40-33 at halftime.
Then in the first six minutes of the second half, Lee went on an 11-3 run to stretch its lead out to 51-36, and the game started to slip further away.
After that, not until the 5:28 mark of the second half did PJC get within 10 points.After 6-8 Deng Deng, an LSU commit, missed two free throws back to back, Ransom hit a basket, Leal made two free throws on a technical foul against Lee’s Trahson Burrell, and Chris Jones scored to bring Paris to within 64-58.
But Blake and Isaac Smith answered with baskets to make it 68-58. Lee made only one more field goal, but went 11-of-12 from the free throw line to stay comfortably ahead.
LEE COLLEGE (12-6, 4-3): Jamal Jones 5-9-11 21, Don Thomas 4 6-6 16, Chris Blake 4 6-7 14, Deng Deng 4 0-2 9, Isaac Smith 1 5-6 7, Trahson Burrell 2 3-4 7, Devante Wilson 2 2-2 6, Adam Ward 0 1-2 1. Totals: 22 32-40 81. 3-Pointers: 5 (Jones 2, Thomas 2, Deng 1). Fouls: 10. Technical Fouls: Burrell.
PARIS (8-10, 2-5): Mike Harmon 5 2-2 14, Eddie Leal 3 8-8 14, Will Ransom 4 4-7 12, Antonio Arnold 3 0-0 8, Chris Jones 3 0-0 7, Delvin Dickerson 2 1-2 6, Anthony Adams 2 0-0 5, David Tucker 2 0-1 5, Lamar Walker 1 0-0 2, Sheldon Yearwood 0 0-2 0, Mo Mitchell 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 15-22 73. 3-Pointers: 8 (Arnold 2, Harmon 2, Adams 1, Jones 1, Tucker 1, Dickerson 1). Fouls: 14. Technical Fouls: None.