By Erik Harris
North Jefferson News
CENTER POINT —
Second-seeded Pinson Valley used diversity on the defensive end along with offensive aggression to cruise past Moody 77-61, and secure a spot in the Class 5A Area 11 boys’ championship game versus host Center Point.
The Indians bounced in and out of their full-court press throughout the contest to keep Moody out of rhythm and off the scoreboard. The inconsistency kept the Blue Devil’s guessing and led to 12 Pinson steals, many of which resulted in transition baskets.
“One thing we’ve been trying to do is switch it up, and not let a team get used to us pressing and beat it and get in that rhythm,” said Pinson coach Clint Argo.
Though the Indians missed two lay-ups in the opening minutes, they still stormed out to a 7-0 lead after senior Marcus Merriweather drained his first 3-pointer of the night with 5:50 remaining in the opening quarter. Merriweather would go on to bottom four of his five 3-point attempts on his way to a double-double -- 25 points and 10 rebounds.
The senior took advantage of his defensive boards all game by grabbing and pushing the tempo. His coast-to-coast lay-in gave Pinson their first double-digit lead of the night at 18-8 midway through the first quarter.
Pinson enjoyed a 43-29 halftime lead before taking the third quarter inbound and finding an open Devin Gary for a quick three that immediately stretched the lead to 17. Gary would finish with 10 points and five steals.
With the comfortable lead, Argo utilized his bench early and often. The rotation worked as the Indian bench pitched in for 17 points and allowed Pinson to keep their swift pace.
Despite the Indians’ harsh full-court trap defense, they were able to stay out of foul trouble and keep Moody off the free-throw line. The Blue Devils made only one trip to the charity stripe through the first three quarters of play. Meanwhile, Pinson reached the line 12 times through the same stretch.
“The second part of the season we’ve really worked on pressing somebody and not fouling,” said Argo. “We’re not really looking for a steal, we’re looking for them to turn the ball over.”
After Argo pulled the starters in the fourth, Moody sparked some much needed aggression and worked their way to seven free-throw opportunities in the final eight minutes. The Blue Devils capitalized by scoring 10 points from the stripe, and dropping 23 in the final quarter to cut the deficit to 16.
“If we make some of the mistakes we made tonight [against Center Point], it’s not going to be very good for us,” said Argo of Monday’s championship game.