Thompson falls in OT

After starting out the season 1-5, the Thompson Warriors didn’t look like one of the best 16 teams in the state.

But after Tuesday’s 71-67 overtime loss to Shades Valley (27-5), no one can doubt that the Warriors (18-11) belonged with the elite teams in the state.

Thompson started out the first quarter of Tuesday’s regional match-up at Jacksonville State University on fire, opening as much as a nine-point lead over the Mounties as senior Siddeeq Cooper nailed several threes, while also scoring several baskets inside the lane.

“We came in thinking we’ve got a decisive advantage in the post,” said Shades Valley head coach Mike Burrus. “He’s [Cooper] hard to stop. That’s a good ballplayer. He’s so doggone quick, we had a hard time (slowing him down). He caused some problems for us.”

Shades Valley regrouped in the second quarter to go into the locker room down by two, and then 6-foot-9 senior Christian Watford, an Indiana University commitment, quickly got the Mounties back to their game-plan in the third quarter.

“We overcame some mistakes we made in the first half,” Burrus said. “The kids weren’t concentrating on the game-plan we discussed. We had to calm them down.”

Shades Valley led by as much as eight in the third quarter, but the Mounties found out they were in for a fight as Hakeem Mitchell drained a three at the buzzer to cut the lead to two.

The fourth quarter was back-and-forth as Mitchell and Terrell Smith each nailed significant shots to tie the game, and then Marcus Edwards’ two free throws with 1:35 remaining proved to be the final points of regulation.

In overtime, it was all Shades Valley as the Mounties outscored the Warriors 12-8. The Warriors had a chance to tie the game on a possession with just over a minute remaining, but a traveling call eliminated the chance of a Thompson comeback.

“We broke down in the last minute,” Thompson head coach Jeff Nichols said. “We got in too big of a hurry.”

Offensively for the Warriors, Cooper finished with a team-high 26 points, while Mitchell had nine. Jordan Chism and Smith each had seven in the loss.

For Shades Valley, Watford finished with a double-double of 33 points and 14 rebounds. Two other players scored in double digits as Nathan Childress and Robert Carson each had 11.

Although the Warriors came up just four wins short of their ultimate goal, Nichols said he is extremely proud of how his team regrouped from a slow start to the 2008-09 season to prove they belong with the best.

“We spent a lot of time not even talking about basketball,” Nichols said. “We talked a lot about character and hard work. That’s where we lacked. Once they saw the value of hard work, it really started to change for us.”