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Paris Junior College took over second place in the Region 14-North on Saturday with a stunning comeback that gave the Dragons a 53-49 victory over No. 5-ranked Kilgore College.
With the win, the Dragons improved to 18-6 overall and 11-3 (.786) in conference, lifting them ahead of Kilgore to undisputed second place in the North Zone of Region XIV. Kilgore fell to 21-4 overall and 12-4 (.750) in league play.
Half of the Rangers’ losses have now come at PJC’s hands. The Dragons won 68-66 last month on Kilgore’s court, when the Rangers were ranked No.2 among the nation’s junior college men’s teams.
Qua Doster led Paris with 12 points, including a couple of timely 3-pointers, backed by nine points each from Brandon Scott and Trevon Seymore.
Stefan Moody, a classy guard headed for Ole Miss, led Kilgore with 17 points, including three 3-pointers in the first 3-1/2 minutes of the game. Jamarcus Weatherspoon added 10 points.
Delvin Dickerson gave Paris an early 4-3 lead, but the Dragons proceeded to blow six consecutive layups while Kilgore was putting on a 3-point shooting clinic. The Rangers made their first five shots — all from well outside the 3-point arc.
Asked in a post-game what he was thinking at the time, PJC head coach Chuck Taylor said he told his players: “Hey, good teams are going to make shots, but they’re not going to keep shooting like that the whole game.”
Taylor was right.
From that point, “we did a good job guarding them,” Taylor said, and Kilgore went 4-for-26 the rest of the half and 10-for-51 the rest of the game — including 0-for-15 on their remaining 3-point attempts.
Seymore, Scott and Doster led the Dragons on a 12-0 run that closed Kilgore’s lead to 20-18. That was followed by a 7-0 run with baskets by Xavier Dupree, Keith Shivers and Doster to give Paris a 25-22 lead with 4:12 remaining in the first half.
PJC stretched its lead to 41-31 over the first nine minutes of the second half on baskets by Jovan Austin, Nouhoum Bocoum, Ronnie White, Doster and Scott while Kilgore went scoreless from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Then Kalif Wright, Weatherspoon and Moody brought Kilgore back.
Over a nine-minute stretch where Doster’s two 3-pointers were all Paris could get from the field, Kilgore went on an 18-7 run that put the Rangers into a 49-48 lead with 2:16 left in the game.
It was a scenario Paris has seen five times this season in its six losses — seeing a lead disappear in the final two minutes.
“We have got to learn how to finish,” Taylor said before this game.
Seymore broke a PJC scoring drought of more than 3-1/2 minutes by driving the lane and dropping a floater into the net to reclaim the lead at 50-49 with 1:05 to go.
But the Dragons still had to stop Kilgore, a team with many weapons.
Moody, who averages 18 points a game and makes 80 percent of his free throws, drove the lane with seven seconds left on the shot clock and 38 seconds left in the game.
Moody missed the shot, and Paris didn’t foul, but Kilgore came down with the rebound with 37 seconds left in the game. Kilgore also had a new 35-second shot clock.
At 0:19, Chris Gracela threw up an unsuccessful 3-pointer from the right baseline that bounced away, and Bocoum pulled down the huge rebound.
He was fouled immediately, with 0:17 left to play, but it was only Kilgore’s sixth team foul and Paris got the ball out of bounds.
The Dragons then got the ball quickly down court, where Moody wrapped up Dupree at 0:11, sending him to the line with a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity.
Dupree made his first free throw for a 51-49 lead, but missed the second.
Kilgore pulled down the missed free throw, and the Rangers had one last opportunity with 10 seconds to play.
Moody’s 3-pointer from the top of the circle with three seconds to go was no good, and Seymore came down with the rebound to clinch the victory.
Weatherspoon fouled him at 0:01, and Seymore made both his free throws to wrap up a 53-49 win.
After the game, Taylor shook his head at Kilgore’s huge rebounding lead, 48-to-26.
“We got killed on the boards,” he said, noting the 13 rebounds of 7-foot Tom “Bush” Wamukota, a Wichita State commit, and the 10 rebounds of Gracela.
Paris’ three 6-9 players – White, Bocoum and Dupree — had eight rebounds among them.
“Our bench saved our butt today,” Taylor said. His starters scored 18 points for the day; his reserves scored 35.
“Here’s the difference. They shot 26.8 percent from the field (15-of-56). We guarded and defended them well,” Taylor said.
Paris didn’t shoot much better, hitting only 34.0 percent of its field goals (18-of-53).
“Also, I’ve said this all year long and I’ll say it again, people really undervalue what Trevon Seymore means to our team. He had 9 points and 3 rebounds and was in control of our offense out there,” Taylor said.
Dickerson drove for two goals that officials overturned, calling him guilty of offensive fouls. He fouled out with 5:18 to play and saw only 11:26 of action, about half the on-court time of the other Paris starters.
The Dragons play four games over the next eight days, three of them at the Hunt Center, beginning with a game at 7 p.m. Monday against No. 28-ranked San Jacinto, which leads the South Zone with a 12-2 record in conference and 21-4 overall.
At 4 p.m. next Saturday, PJC will host No. 9-ranked Trinity Valley, which is 23-3 overall and leads the North Zone with its 13-2 record.
“I keep saying, this is an exciting brand of basketball. I hope the people of Paris really understand what they’re missing if they don’t come out and see these guys.”
Bossier Parish (6-18, 4-10) helped Paris and Kilgore on Saturday with a 77-73 upset of Navarro 77-73, dropping the Bulldogs to 18-9 overall and 11-5 in conference. Navarro is now a full game behind both Paris and Kilgore.
Lamar State-Port Arthur, the No. 2 team in the South Zone, just escaped a similar fate by scoring in the final minute to defeat Coastal Bend (8-15, 2-14) by 52-51.
Trinity Valley leads Paris and Kilgore by a game and a half, but Kilgore has fallen two games behind Trinity Valley in the loss column with no more games against the Cardinals in the regular season.
Paris has just one more loss than Trinity Valley and can pull even with a win over the the Cardinals here on Saturday.
PJC’s win over Kilgore was especially meaningful because the sweep of the two-game series gives the Dragons the tie-breaker for tournament seeding purposes in the event of a tie with either Kilgore or Trinity Valley, or both.
Both Kilgore and Paris still have games left against worrisome Bossier Parish. Kilgore hosts the Cavaliers on Wednesday, while Paris is on the road at Tyler, which beat Panola 82-69 on Saturday to improve to 12-11 overall and 5-10 in conference. Bossier will be at Paris a week from Monday, a make-up of a game that was scheduled to played here Wednesday, but roads were too icy in Louisiana for the team to get here.
The top two teams in each zone get a first-round bye in the tournament, which is March 4-8 on the University of Texas-Tyler campus.
The winner of the tournament will advance to the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., on March 17-22.
In the South Zone, San Jacinto (12-2) has a 1-1/2 game lead over half-game lead over Lamar State-Port Arthur (11-4) and a 3-1/2 lead over third-place Lee (9-6).
A Paris win over San Jacinto would give the Dragons the tie-breaker over both San Jacinto and Lamar State.
KILGORE (21-4, 12-4) — Jamarcus Weatherspoon 4-16 1-1 10, Stefan Moody 5-20 4-4 17, Chris Gracela 2-3 0-0 5, Tom “Bush” Wamukota 0-2 3-4 3, Kalif Wright 1-7 4-4 6, Jonathan Milligan 1-1 0-0 2, Robert Joiner 0-2 0-0 0, Aaron Dailey 1-2 2-4 4, Michael Thomas 1-1 0-0 2, Trevin Joseph 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 15-56 14-17 49. Three-Pointers: 5-20 (Weatherspoon 1-4, Moody 3-12, Gracela 1-2, Joiner 0-1, Joseph 0-1). Rebounds: 48 (Wamukota 13, Gracela 10, Weatherspoon 6, Wright 5, Moody 4, Milligan 2, Joiner 1, Dailey 1, Thomas 1, team 5). Assists: 13 (Moody 6). Turnovers: 22 (Weatherspoon 5, Moody 3, Millican 3). Blocks: 5 (Weatherspoon 2). Steals: 3 (Gracela 2). Fouls: 13. Fouled Out: None.
PARIS (18-6, 11-3) — Jovan Austin 2-7 2-4 6, Delvin Dickerson 2-3 0-0 4, Joe Haynes 1-8 0-0 2, Nouhoum Bocoum 1-8 1-1 3, Keith Shivers 1-3 1-2 3, Trevon Seymore 2-4 5-5 9, Brandon Scott 3-6 2-2 9, Ronnie White 1-2 0-0 2, Qua Doster 4-7 2-2 12, Xavier Dupree 1-5 1-2 3, Henoc Bienne 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-53 14-18 53. Three-Pointers: 3-11 (Doster 2-2, Scott 1-2, Austin 0-1, Dickerson 0-1, Haynes 0-3, Dupree 0-2). Rebounds: 26 (White 4, Shivers 4). Assists: 10 (Austin 4). Turnovers: 11 (Austin 3, Seymore 3). Blocks: 5 (White 2). Steals: 11 (Austin 2, Haynes 2, Shivers 2, Dupree 2). Fouls: 15. Fouled Out: Dickerson.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra