Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
Ending their regular season with an exciting 65-51 win against second-ranked Tift County, the Valdosta High boys basketball team will go into the Region 1-AAAAAA tournament confident in their ability to beat the top teams.
“It was a big win over Tift County, but at this point we have to let it go,” VHS coach Antonio Haynes said. “Everyone will come ready to play for this tournament.”
Finishing the regular season 16-8, the Wildcats have played consistent over the last portion of the season, getting crucial road wins and even bigger wins on their home court.
The ’Cats will face a feisty Camden County (11-10) team tonight after they took down Lowndes on Monday night to advance to the next round. The tournament, hosted by Brunswick, concludes with the region championship game Friday.
“Camden is pretty good and they play hard. We just have to take care of our part, play extremely hard and focus on our defense,” said Haynes. “I just want my team to play hard, that’s all I ask. I’m not too big on trying to predict the outcome of games, but I know it will take a whole team effort to get this win.”
The undisputed leader of the ’Cats team is senior Rashad Lewis, who puts up an average 19 points a game and is one of the more aggressive players for Valdosta.
“He’s been great for us. We ask a lot of him and he’s been holding up to the standard. He doesn’t want to lose and I’m hoping that he has the same drive (today) that he had Saturday and all season,” said Haynes.
One area where the ’Cats could use some improvement if they want to go deep in the playoffs is at the free throw line. Making just 36 percent from the line, the ’Cats lose a lot of points.
“We shot free throws well on Saturday. We can’t change anything over night, but we want our kids to step up to the line and make these shots. We’ve pretty much just have to work on changing the mindset at the line,” said Haynes.
Other than Lewis, the Wildcats’ other standout players include Elliot Ingram, averaging 8.7 points a game and is a dangerous 3-point shooter, and junior Tre Barrett, who is averaging 7.1 points per game.
A recent addition to the team beginning in January, freshman Khalil McClain is averaging six points a game, coming off a 12-point performance against Tift County.
“Having Khalil is good for our team, it gives us an inside guy. He’s started six varsity games this year and I’m just asking him to be a ball player and he steps up for us in big games,” added Haynes.
Last but not least, Anthony Smith is a big guy who causes the other teams problems when they try to drive the ball into the paint. Smith averages 6.6 points a game, but adds five rebounds a game as well.
Valdosta and Camden County split this season, with VHS getting a 75-59 win at home Jan. 11 and Camden winning 69-63 on its home court Jan. 18.