Jamestown High ended Smithfield’s 24-game Bay Rivers District boys basketball winning streak Tuesday with a 68-61 victory in their showdown for first place in front of a large crowd in the Eagles’ gym.
The Eagles’ victory was deserving enough, as they shook off a terrible first half of shooting by catching fire from the field in the third quarter while continuing the defense that kept them close. Nevertheless, Donovan Bridgeforth could not help but point out the challenges the formerly struggling program surmounted to earn the biggest win in his two seasons as Jamestown’s coach.
“I never thought I was going to get to coach in this league,” Bridgeforth said of the Bay Rivers. “I can’t tell you how many interviews I had.
“And we’ve got a kid who’s 5-foot-3 and couldn’t even get a second of playing time against Smithfield last year giving everything he’s got defensively against the best point guard around.
“Ryan Jones is the toughest kid in the country.”
To clear up the confusion of that last sentence, Bridgeforth is talking about the defensive job his Ryan Jones did on Smithfield’s Ryan Jones — the 2015-16 Bay Rivers District Player of the Year. Jamestown’s Ryan Jones limited Smithfield’s Ryan Jones to 4-of-14 shooting.
Jamestown’s Ryan Devine also was terrific defensively, holding Smithfield forward Sascha Stafford to 2-of-5 shooting. Stafford entered the game averaging 18 points but scored a season-low four as the Packers could not get him the ball.
Defense was especially important for the Eagles in a first half in which they shot 7 of 27 from the field but only trailed 23-22 at intermission. Evan Wang, who scored a game-high 29 points, kept the Eagles close by hitting 5 of his 10 first-half shots while the rest of the team went 2 of 19 from the field.
Evan Wang stayed hot in the third quarter, and his teammates followed suit as the Eagles (7-2, 7-0 district) outscored the Packers 27-13 to break the game open. Jamestown hit 8 of 10 shots in the third quarter, including 6 of 7 of its 3-point attempts to lead 49-36 going into the final eight minutes.
“Evan Wang and Mason Wang (twin brothers) are two of the best shooters in the state, and when they get hot, it’s crazy,” the Eagles’ Jones said. “We just tried to keep it close with our defense until they got hot.”
Devine (13 points) started the heat wave with a 3 to tie the score at 25 early in the second half. Mason Wang (18 points), who was 0 for 5 in the first half, followed with a drive to the basket to give the Eagles a lead they never relinquished.
The Eagles continued to roll, their lead cresting at 49-34 on Evan Wang’s 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds to play in the third quarter. Smithfield — led by its Jones (17 points), Marcus Custis (17 points) and Keon Tucker (13 points) — warmed up enough in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to seven points.
But the Eagles, who made all 16 their free throws, went 8 for 8 from the stripe in the final 1:30 to keep a comfortable lead and move into sole possession of first in the district.
“This means a lot to the administration, the community and the kids,” Bridgeforth said.
Jamestown’s Ryan Jones added, “It’s huge. They beat us twice last year, and if we get one more win against them, we might hang a (district championship) banner that says 2017.”
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.
JAMESTOWN 68, SMITHFIELD 61
SMITHFIELD (6-1, 6-1 Bay Rivers): Custis 17, Moore 4, Ry. Jones 17, Pierce 6, Tucker 13, Stafford 4. 22 10-15 61.
JAMESTOWN (7-2, 7-0): M. Wang 18, Devine 13, Brown 2, E. Wang 29, Schmidt 6. 21 16-16 68.
Smithfield 9 14 13 25 -- 61
Jamestown 8 14 27 19 -- 68
3-point goals: Smithfield 7 (Tucker 3, Custis 2, Ry. Jones 2), Jamestown 10 (E. Wang 6, Devine 3, M. Wang). JV winner: Smithfield.