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TYLER — Paris Junior College rallied from a slow start to storm past Trinity Valley 74-63 Saturday night for the Region XIV basketball championship and a trip to the March 17-22 NJCAA junior college championships in Hutchinson, Kan.
Joe Haynes played the kind of game that Dragons head coach Chuck Taylor had been waiting for, scoring 23 points to deliver the title to the Dragons (26-7), who had been a pre-season pick of league coaches to finish fifth in the seven-team North Zone.
The freshman from Detroit, Mich., threw up an air ball on his first attempt, then made six of his next nine, including three 3-pointers, and he went 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
“This is what I’ve been looking for all season from Joe,” Taylor said.
Trevon Seymore scored 15 points — 11 in the first half as he kept PJC in the game despite a slow start. Paris went six minutes before getting its first field goal, then stormed back from an early 11-2 deficit.
Seymore gave the Dragons a first-half offensive punch in all three of their tournament games, and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Seymore, Haynes and Delvin Dickerson were selected on the all-tournament team along with Trinity Valley’s Octavius Ellis and Lamar State’s Tre Bennett.
Ellis had a double-double in the championship game, scoring 19 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. He was the only Cardinal in double figures Saturday night.
Paris led 36-26 at the half, and turned back every Trinity Valley threat in the second half, thanks to an across-the-board contribution from its roster — starters and bench alike.
The Dragons made 26 of 32 free throws (81.3 percent) to keep comfortably ahead as Trinity Valley fouled late in the game, hoping to climb back into the game.
Dickerson pulled down a team-high 9 rebounds, and the PJC defense was stifling. Much of the game, Trinity Valley was held to one shot. Either the Cardinals made it or PJC was headed down the other end of the court with a rebound.
Paris was trailing by nine points when Seymore gave the Dragons their first field goal at 13:00 of the first half. He made one of two free throws at 12:28 to make it 11-5, and one of two free throws at 11:42 to make it 11-6. Those were two of only six missed free throws all night for Paris.
Ellis made two free throws to extend TVCC’s lead to 13-7, but Dragons freshman Brandon Scott darted twice in a row through the Cardinal defense for lay-ups, and added a free throw as well, making it a 13-11 game.
Ellis made two more free throws for a 15-11 cushion, and then Paris center Noucoum Bocoum showed some wizardry in the middle. He was fouled twice, making four free throws, sandwiched around a neat pass to Qua Doster all alone under the basket for a goal. In less than a minute and a half, Bocoum had the Dragons ahead 19-15, a lead they would never relinquish.
Seymore made two more free throws, Haynes hit a 3-pointer, Keith Shivers scored and Haynes scored again for a nine-point PJC lead at 28-19 with 4:16 left in the first half.
The Dragons’ lead grew to 10 points on Seymore’s 3-pointer at 2:40. Dilepso Blanco answered with a three for TVCC, but Bocoum scored again and Haynes’ second 3-pointer of the half padded PJC’s lead to 36-24 at 1:08.
TVCC got as close as six points twice in the early part of the second half at 36-30 and 39-33, but sophomore center Ronnie White and Dickerson sparked a 7-0 Paris run. White made one of two free throws, then got free underneath for a slam dunk. Haynes missed a 3-pointer, but Dickerson slammed the ball home on the rebound. Seymore than lobbed an alley oop pass that Dickerson slammed home, and in just over two minutes, Paris had surged ahead by 13 points, at 46-33.
Meanwhile, the Paris defense kept throwing a “one and done” on Trinity Valley. The Cardinals got one shot, and they either made it or the Dragons got the rebound.
Ellis was successful all night long in driving into a crowd and getting whistles from the officials — but three times in a row he made the first shot but missed the second.
On offense, Seymore and Scott scored baskets as Paris extended its lead to 15 points at 51-36 with 12:08 to play.
Xavier Dupree’s 3-pointer and Haynes’ two free throws gave Paris its largest lead, 56-40, with nine minutes left.
By Charles Richards