The Paris High School Eagles entered the final week of their season hoping to turn the tide of what has been a tough and challenging schedule. They have struggled to find the pieces that fit together and Coach Mike Foster has been willing to change up the lineup regularly to try and find the hot hand to draw pressure from senior guard Kris Graham.
At Charleston, they found none of that and lost a discouraging, lopsided game to rival Charleston, 70-32.
The highly-touted Junior Eagles were making their way through their District Tournament, leading until the final seconds before dropping the title game but finishing with an incredible District Runner-Up under their belt last Thursday night. Though they had played three games already in the week, several freshmen moved up to play in the Friday night high school game against Booneville.
No pressure; you just played three games this week and now face an opponent a division higher in your first senior high game.
It was Senior Night in Paris, and the boys had the opportunity to hear the respect from the home crowd before the game. Senior Dominic Bradley got his first start of the season and drew the job of defending the post player from Booneville, giving up at least three inches in height and 150 pounds. He was fantastic defensively and the senior night roster held their own, with the game tied after the first period.
This is where Foster revealed his plan, as Jordan Moore and two freshman, Dylan Krigbaum and Anthony Potts, entered the game.
Immediately the tempo changed and the defense was converting turnovers to points. Potts cut to the basket right away, only to have the giant inside block his shot and knock him to the floor. He got up and got into position for the inbounds play. A few minutes later, he drove again, and this time a charge is called. Most would be angry or frustrated. Not this group.
They continued to drive and dish, Moore getting the big man in the air and then moving around him. The spin move for a bucket and a foul, open lanes for Kris Graham, and a flow of defensive players coming off the bench to spell everyone. Paris built an 11-point halftime lead and the players felt like it would explode.
Booneville opened the second half with two big buckets from deep, and Paris did their best to survive the onslaught. Krigbaum hit two from deep, Potts hit another, and Graham had looks that he has not had all season, cutting to the basket as the larger but suddenly slow Bearcat squad could not find answers. It was expected that a few other freshman might see time, but the chemistry was working and Foster stayed with the hot hands.
With a three-point lead and the ball in Booneville’s hands under a minute, Potts made the steal just past midcourt and the finger roll layup broke the will of the Booneville squad. Seconds later the Paris bench emptied onto the floor to celebrate the huge upset, having lost at Booneville 62-44 three weeks earlier.
After the 55-52 win, Paris is now 7-18 on the season, but don’t let that fool you. Graham scored 24 in the win, but the 12-point output from Moore was backbreaking. The freshman Potts had seven and Krigbaum had six, but their confidence made the difference.
The loaded freshman class will contribute as they head to Perryville for the District Tournament. They will play Atkins in the first round, a team they lost to earlier in the year, feeling frustrated that they let it slip away. They will face them with their new look lineup Tuesday in the district tournament, looking for revenge.