THOMASVILLE — The Lowndes Vikings (2-0) spoiled the season opener for the Thomasville Bulldogs (0-1) on Tuesday night, winning 78-73 in a game that came down to the wire.
The win was fueled by a big effort from senior forward Marcus Black and sophomore guard Samuel Shoptaw, who both combined for 46 points on the night.
While Shoptaw and Black got theirs most of the night, their gravity when driving to the rim is what allowed Lowndes to blossom their first quarter lead with the help of some hot 3pt shooting.
Lowndes jumped out to a 12-4 lead with 4:39 remaining in the first, and while Thomasville did pull within two, junior guard Jeremiah Henderson completed a four-point play with 1:12 left in the quarter to put Lowndes up 19-13.
The second quarter is really where the game started to get away from Thomasville, however.
Shoptaw was involved in every scoring play for the first half of the quarter, starting with finding junior guard Keyshawn Arthur in the corner twice for three. Shoptaw also made two of his own threes and scored a point at the free throw line, putting Lowndes ahead by as much as 36-15 with 5:12 left in the quarter.
Thomasville refused to go away and they outscored Lowndes 17-7 in those final minutes behind senior forward AJ Dent.
“I think AJ Dent found a rhythm. He’s a good player, we knew that coming in,” Lowndes head coach Reshon Benjamin said. “For us we’re still kind of learning how to be up and still have a dog mentality…I think ultimately with a lot of the young guys that don’t have varsity experience, they’re still learning how to win. Keeping your foot on the pedal, not slowing up, not getting lackadaisical. But those are things we’ll go back and look at the film and be able to correct for sure.”
A deep three from junior guard Ruben Compton and a floater from Shoptaw helped stop the bleeding towards the end of the quarter, but Thomasville managed to cut the lead to 43-32 going into halftime.
To open the third Thomasville completed an 8-3 run with a thunderous dunk from Dent, trailing Lowndes 46-40 with 5:20 remaining.
Black caught a failed lob and recovered for the dunk, and Shoptaw finished a layup and-one before finishing another layup and pushing the lead back to 10.
The two teams went back and forth for the rest of the quarter, but Henderson finished the quarter with two back-to-back steals and a layup followed by a vicious dunk from Black. Lowndes led 61-49 going into the fourth.
Thomasville decided in the fourth quarter to take the ball out of Shoptaw’s hands, doubling him once he crossed half court and sometimes before, which clearly frustrated Shoptaw but he still found a way to help his team.
All game he led huddles, talked up his teammates and in the fourth, he remained steady when his role was altered.
“He still makes himself available by becoming a screener to get someone else open,” Benjamin said of Shoptaw’s role in these situations. “Either they switch or stay with him, either way somebody is going to get open when he becomes a screener. So as selfless as he is he didn’t have a problem with it.”
Shoptaw still was on the lookout for a gap in the Thomasville defense, and the moment they didn’t bring a double his way he scored on a floater to put Lowndes up 69-63. They ran him in some off-ball actions as well, he scored diving to the rim off a pindown screen, and sealed the game away at the free throw line and with a final steal and layup.
Shoptaw finished with 23 points and four assists, Black finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and Henderson finished with nine points and five steals on the night.
Thomasville girls 26
The Lowndes Vikettes (1-0) dominated the on their opening night, winning 78-26 in a thrashing of the Thomasville Lady Bulldogs (0-1).
This win came thanks to a fantastic defensive performance from the Vikettes, who didn’t allow the Lady ‘Dogs to get into any type of rhythm.
The Lady ‘Dogs couldn’t get anything inside the arc with junior Kimora Wade and senior Otaifo Esenabhalu down low so they relegated to trying to force threes, which didn’t work well with the intense pressure the Vikettes’ perimeter defenders applied.
They got in the passing lanes and got out on the fast break all game long, with sophomore guard Aryanna Thomas being the beneficiary of many of those opportunities finishing with a team-high 24 points.
Offensively the Vikettes took full advantage of the Lady ‘Dogs poorly executed zone defense which was unable to recover fast enough to cover open shooters, which cost them dearly.
The Vikettes led 50-17 at the half, and the Lady ‘Dogs only scored two points in the third quarter, where their deficit grew to 67-19 by the start of the fourth.
Great ball movement on offense and some stellar defensive work had Vikettes head coach Antonia Tookes happy with the performance.
“I thought it was great,” Tookes said. “I told them if everybody touches the ball in this offense and everybody is in tune to the team concept, then everybody is having fun. That’s what it’s all about, having fun while you’re playing.”