THOMASVILLE -- Cook coach Bobby Jones needed a spark for his team. His young Hornets hung with Valdosta in the first half, trailing by just four at halftime. But, he felt something was missing if they were going to win the boys' fifth-place game at the Reebok Holiday Classic on Wednesday.
So, the Hornets, normally an up-tempo team, turned up the pressure in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, the move backfired. The athletic Wildcats (8-5) blitzed Cook for 39 points in the second half to run off with a 67-54 victory.
"We were down, so I tried to turn it around," said Jones, who started three sophomores and a freshman. "Usually, we play that way, but I felt we were outsized a bit. We kept it close in the first half by changing what we do. Then in the second half, they kind of figured it out and made a little run."
Fueling that run was Valdosta senior center Antonio Tillman. He powered home six points in the first quarter, but had plenty more opportunities in the second half. With the emphasis on running and trapping in the second half, Tillman found 17 points after the break, capitalizing on fast breaks and tip-ins. He wasn't the only one as senior Brandon Williams spun his way to seven of his nine points in the final 16 minutes. Darrell Eady, one of four seniors in the Wildcats' starting lineup, scored seven of his 11 after halftime.
"Give our guys credit. At halftime, they decided to pick it up and get after it a little more," Valdosta coach John Miller said. "They came out in the third quarter and did a lot better job.
"We want to be selective, but we like to run the ball. You just have to make good decisions with it."
That last point proved to be a lesson the Hornets (5-6) needed to understand, going up against a team that Jones called the best they'd played in three days at Thomasville High School.
"We had too many unforced turnovers," Jones said. "That happens with young kids, and I'm hoping with the experience of this tournament we'll eliminate them by February and the region tournament."
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