Vincent makes Sweet 16 for 11th time in last 12 years

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, February 13, 2019

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

VINCENT – A few days earlier, the Vincent Yellow Jackets won their 13th consecutive area tournament championship under head coach John Hadder, but on Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Jackets put together an even more impressive when they took down Southeastern 70-45 in front of a home crowd to lock up a spot in their 11th Sweet 16 in the last 12 seasons.

That kind of consistency is unheard of at the high school level. With different level of talent on your team each year bringing different attitudes to the court, it’s hard to get consistency at the high school level unlike a collegiate or professional program.

Most teams will have a good year or two followed by a down year or two depending on numbers in the school and athletes on the team, but Hadder does a great job of knowing how to adjust to his new players each season. Whether it be playing small, playing big or playing with a combination of both, each season, Vincent is able to be one of the best 16 teams in the 6A classification.

All of that was on display in the Yellow Jackets’ sub-regional game against the Mustangs.

The Jackets came out swarming in the opening period behind both a stingy defense forcing steal-after-steal, and an offense that was on fire.

Defensively, Vincent only gave up two field goals and four points in the opening period of the game, and was seemingly in the passing lane the entire period, which led to transition opportunities.

The Jackets took advantage of those chances and saw five different scorers come ready to play in the game, behind six points from Malik Hamilton.

Hamilton hit three field goals in the quarter and was also joined by a strong showing from Ryshod Keith, who came out and hit an early 3-pointer as well as another field goal to post five points in the opening frame.

Behind that, KJ Youngblood, Jackson McGinnis and Kaleb Wilson all had at least two points in the quarter for Vincent, to help the team post 18 points and jump all over the visitors by a score of 18-4 at the end of one.

With their season on the line, however, the Mustangs were able to respond with a big answer in the second period to at least stay in the game heading into the halftime break.

It started with a quick 4-0 run, which cut the deficit to 10 in the first minute of the period. Vincent responded with a 5-0 run of its own, before Southeastern hit its first 3-pointer of the game.

The rest of the quarter was played back-and-forth with neither team really seizing momentum, but the Mustangs were able to stay within 11 points until Youngblood hit a layup just before the buzzer sounded to give the Yellow Jackets a 31-18 advantage at the break, despite being outscored 14-13 in the quarter.

Vincent came out of the locker room and into the second half with a different intensity though, not enjoying being outscored in the second quarter.

The Jackets started the third period on a 7-0 run behind an emphatic and-1 quickly from McGinnis, before Youngblood added a layup and McGinnis added a second basket. That all of a sudden put the Yellow Jackets on top by 20 points at 38-18, which was their largest lead of the game thanks to the new level of effort in the period.

Southeastern still had some life left, and was able to answer with a 10-5 run out of a timeout, thanks in large part to switching to a full-court press defense, at one point leading to a 6-0 run.

That was able to get the Mustangs at least within striking distance for the rest of the period, getting as close as 11 points at one point, but Vincent’s double-digit lead was able to hold up at the end of the quarter in large part thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Keith and Youngblood to take a 52-39 lead into the final quarter.

With the lead in the final quarter, it was time for Vincent’s bigs to go to work, as Hardie and McGinnis took advantage of a tired Southeastern team in the paint.

Hardie had a quick four points in the post for the Yellow Jackets to start the quarter, as he quickly helped extend the lead to 16 points. He ended up putting up eight points of Vincent’s 10 points in the first half of the final quarter thanks to another layup and two free throws, which helped the Jackets bust the game open with a 21-point lead at 62-41 with little time left.

McGinnis, who is also a tall and physical presence as well as a good ball handler, was also able to put together some powerful drives to the basket in the final quarter, posting six points himself, including four straight at one point and a 2-2 mark at the free throw line.

Combining for 14 points in the final quarter, those two alone almost doubled up the production from the Mustangs, as they only put up eight in the final period leading to the 25-point win.

McGinnis posted 19 points, 15 of which came in the second half, while Hardie added 12 points, eight of which came in the final quarter. Hamilton and Keith each posted 13 points thanks to five combined 3-pointers, while Youngblood added eight to give all five starters at least eight points.

Vincent will take on Red Bay at Wallace State Hanceville this Friday at 4:30 p.m. with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line.