Vincent comes up short in Northeast Regional

The Vincent High School boys’ basketball team came back to the Jacksonville State University campus for a second chance in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A Northeast Regional.

After letting a big halftime lead slip away in the semifinals last season, the Yellow Jackets struggled once again after jumping out to an early lead against Section in the semifinals at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

Senior guard Devanta Williams and junior forward Ben McKinney came up short in two final attempts to keep the Yellow Jackets in the game and another trip to Jacksonville turned up empty as Vincent fell 59-56 to Section in the Northeast Regional Class 2A semifinals.

“We were well prepared,” Williams said, “we just didn’t execute.”

Williams and McKinney led the Yellow Jackets (22-8) with 14 points each. Brothers Juwan and Anterio Rogers added 11 points each. Keyon Wallace finished with six points.

Juwan Rogers and Wallace led Vincent with 12 rebounds each.

Vincent got off to a strong start, as the Yellow Jackets were hot from beyond the arc in the first quarter. Juwan Rogers hit two 3-pointers and Williams nailed another shot from long distance to help Vincent jump out to a 14-6 lead in the first quarter.

Vincent was in control for most of the first half before the momentum began to turn following Wallace’s second personal foul, which sent him to the bench with five minutes remaining in the first half.

The Yellow Jackets struggled on offense with Wallace out of the game and a 24-16 lead turned into a 32-30 deficit heading into the locker room at halftime after a 16-6 run by Section to close the half.

Vincent coach John Hadder said his players looked for the outside shot early in the Yellow Jackets’ offensive possession.

“We got into a stretch where we had a few bad possessions,” Hadder said. “We shot the ball a little too quickly. We wanted to get a quality possession every time, but we had a stretch there where we didn’t get many quality looks.”

The Yellow Jackets rallied in the third quarter with Wallace back in the game. Vincent outscored Section 17-11 in the quarter to take a 47-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Section went on a 6-2 run to start the quarter to tie the score at 49-49. The two teams traded baskets for the next three minutes before Anterio Rogers’ 3-pointer gave the Yellow Jackets a 54-53 lead with 2:50 remaining in the game.

McKinney hit a jumper from the left baseline to give Vincent its final lead of the game at 56-55 with 2:10 left. Williams had a chance to extend the lead with 42 seconds left, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one situation at the free-throw line.

Section guard Phillip Ryan scored the go-ahead basket with 33 seconds remaining. Williams drove down the lane, but his floater came up just short of the rim with 16 seconds left.

Following two free throws by Section’s Chance McCarver, McKinney’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer came up short.

Vincent struggled with Section junior Darren Culver, a 6-foot-8 center who controlled the paint as he recorded 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.

When Wallace left the game, Vincent struggled to match up with Culver.

“We had trouble with their big kid,” Hadder said. “He was a big force around the basket.”

Despite having a difficult time containing Culver in the paint, Hadder felt the Yellow Jackets had plenty of opportunities of their own close to the basket in the second half.

“We had a lot of good looks inside that we didn’t capitalize on,” Hadder said. “We made a concerted effort to get the ball inside. We didn’t finish around the basket.”