Emerald's Rhondi Hackett finishes off a slam dunk during the closing minutes of Saturday's championship game of the Emerald City Classic against Greenwood.
(Shawn M. Knox | Special to the Index-Journal)
As the final seconds wound down on the Emerald High School boys basketball team's victory in Saturday night's final of the Index-Journal Emerald City Classic, guard Kelvis Louden walked the bench, gesturing for the crowd to make as much noise as possible.
He didn't need to. There was plenty reason for Vikings fans to cheer.
After losing against Greenwood twice earlier in the season, Emerald jumped on the Eagles from the opening tip and ran off with a surprisingly easy 71-57 victory against the Eagles to claim its first championship in its own tournament since its first year in 2009.
"This is a very big win," said Louden, who scored a game-high 23 points and was named to the all-tournament team. "We've been wanting this win since the start of the season."
After falling to the Eagles by two points at home earlier this month, then by 12 at Greenwood a week later, the Vikings wasted no time in establishing which squad was the hungriest Saturday night. Leading 6-4 at the halfway point of the first quarter, Emerald turned up the heat defensively and exploded on a 17-5 run in the final four minutes of the quarter to take a commanding 23-9 lead by the quarter's end.
The lead ballooned to as large as 20 in the first half as Emerald's man-to-man defense stifled the Eagles. Greenwood guard Jarryd Coleman, who scored 31 against Saluda in
Friday's semifinal, scored just four points and made just one field goal in the first half as Emerald took a 35-19 lead to the locker room.
Greenwood's offense wasn't helped by the fact it was missing point guard Octavious Morgan, who was injured against Saluda, but coach Kelcey Stevens wasn't about to use that as an excuse.
"It always hurts when you don't have a guy that you count on, but I'm not sure if even having him would have helped us (Saturday) if we come out with that type of focus, or lack thereof," Stevens said. "(Emerald) wanted it a lot more than we did. They came out and made plays, and we didn't. We looked like we hadn't played a game in this tournament (Saturday).
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