VHS comes up short in quarters

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The toughest day of the season is normally when a team plays their final game, but for Varnado, the Wildcats and their fans have nothing to be disappointed about.

Varnado suffered a 65-62 loss in the quarterfinal round of the Class 1A state playoffs Friday night, but played with the heart of a champion against an Arcadia team that had made the state semifinals the last two seasons and the finals the year before.

“My guys played unbelievable effort, absolutely unbelievable effort, ” Varnado coach Brad Oestriecher said. “That’s all you can ask for. We gave them everything they wanted and more.”

Fifth-seeded Varnado, the host team, had a tough shooting night and trailed by as many as 16 points at 39-23 with 2:37 left in the third quarter.

“We were getting good shots early,” Oestriecher said. “We were getting good shots throughout the game. A lot of stuff wasn’t falling. We were a little over-anxious and eventually, we started hitting our shots.”

Arcadia was up by 16 after a 3-pointer by Anthony Boston, who scored 15 points. After the shot, the Hornets were called for their second delay-of-game, resulting in a technical foul.

D.J. Jefferson, who scored 29 points, hit both free throws and that began a 7-0 run for the Wildcats.

Errol Varnado drove to the bucket, hit the shot, got fouled and converted the 3-point play, trimming the lead to 11. Jefferson grabbed an offensive rebound from a missed free throw, went to the line and hit both ends of a 1-and-1. It was 39-30 with 2:17 to go.

Varnado trailed 43-34 after three quarters.

The Wildcats trimmed it to 47-43 with 5:46 remaining, but a 3-point play by Arcadia’s Danquarian Fields seven seconds later pushed the advantage back to seven points.

Varnado was down 60-50 with 1:18 left and it looked like the rest of the game could just be a formality, but the Wildcats had other ideas and made a final push.

The Wildcats started fouling to stop the clock, and their shooting really began to take off.

Arcadia missed two free throws with 1:09 left. Jefferson hit a free throw with 1:01 on the clock.

The Wildcats’ Varnado got fouled and hit 1 of 2, but a teammate rebounded the missed free throw and hit the layup. The home team trailed 60-54, and was chipping way, but time was running short.

The Wildcats called timeout with 51.7 seconds left. Jatavious Graham, who finished with three points for Arcadia, split from the line with 50.8 left.

Varnado’s Andre Jones then hit a layup and the lead was down to five at 61-56.

Arcadia missed an inside shot and Jefferson pulled the Wildcats within two when he nailed a 3-pointer, forcing Arcadia to call timeout with 20 seconds left to make it 61-59.

Fields hit one free throw, making it a four-point game with 17.2 to go, but Jefferson wasn’t done yet. He answered with a 3-pointer and the Wildcats were within one.

Boston was fouled after the inbounds play with 3.4 to go and hit both from the line. Varnado inbounded. Arcadia trapped the player who caught the inbounds, but he made a pass and the heave from three-quarters court at the buzzer from the left was on line, but off the backboard right of the rim.

The Wildcats’ season ended at 21-6.

“Unbelievable ride,” Oestriecher said. “As you see tonight, just the atmosphere was unbelievable. What we did for the community and what this community for us. District champs. Halfcourt shot away from the semifinals. That’s all you can ask for.”

Oestriecher had nothing but praise for his senior class, which included Jefferson, Delrick Abrams, Nick Darden and Isaiah Alexander.

Oestriecher got choked up when talking about this group.

“I’m extremely close to this senior class,” Oestriecher said. “They’ve done so much for this program as you can see just by being here tonight. They have done everything you have asked of them and more. I’m just so proud of them.”

Abrams scored 12 points for the Wildcats. Alexander and Damon Kirsch both had four and Armontee Kemp added three.

Arcadia (24-5) advanced to the semifinals to play top-seeded Lafayette Christian in the semifinals. The winner will face either third-seeded Southern Lab or No. 10 Tensas for the state title.

Kordell Cortez scored 22 points to lead Arcadia. Fields recorded 14.

Elanceo Richardson and Jacobie Fields finished with four each and Corey Russell had three.