After a long tournament, the stage was set for two Region 5-AAAAA foes to meet in the SMI Christmas Tournament championship game, hosted at Villa Rica High School. The game pitted the Lithia Springs Lions against the host school, the Villa Rica Wildcats.
Lithia able to hold them off VR, 65-51, with a defense that forced turnovers, which led to timely buckets being scored by guard Daquan Huff, who finished the evening with a game high, 17 points. Huff was named the 2014 SMI Tournament Most Valuable Players.
Lithia Springs jumped out quickly in the first quarter with a 3-pointer by Huff, which sparked a 12-0 run by the Lions, and forced Villa Rica to call a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Wildcats were able to start a run of their own to bring the score to 15-9 at the end of the first.
The second quarter opened up with an ally-oop entry pass from Qunta Bedford to James Williams which tacked on another two points to the score. Villa Rica was able to battle back to take the lead behind all tournament guard Tye Hill, who netted eight points in the second quarter, and helped contribute to a 23 point outburst. At the half, Villa Rica led 32-26.
The third quarter opened up with another inbounds ally-oop from Bedford to Williams and that helped the Lions start to creep back in and eventually take the lead at 33-32, forcing another timeout by the Wildcats. After outscoring the Wildcats 15-5 in the third, the Lions build a 41-37 lead. Villa Rica would not threaten for the rest of the game.
“The Wildcats, they got some cats that can go. We jumped on them 12-0, and I think the kids just kind of got comfortable,” said LSHS coach JW Cantrell. They came back and took the lead, They were up by five at halftime, and we came back in the third quarter and got after it like I knew we could get after it, and after that it was over.”
Two 3-pointers by Huff, and nine tuff points by Kamari Williams helped put the game away for Lithia over their region mate for the second time this season, though this time it was not a region game.
Huff led the All-Tournament selections and was joined on the team by James Williams, who finished second in the title game with 15 points, two behind Huff. Hill led the Wildcats in scoring with 16 points.
“Daquan is so fast, sometimes too fast, but he plays as hard as anyone plays and I’d take that kid any day of the week,”
The Lions reached the championship game by winning two early tourney games in routes over Thursday and Friday.
“We dominated the first two nights. We just had more athleticism than they did, and we did what we needed to do,” Cantrell said.
Lithia Springs improves their record to 7-5 overall. 7-5 overall.
The Lithia girls wrapped up the SMI tourney on Saturday with a 2-1 record. They defeated Villa Rica at VRHS, 45-30. The Lady Wildcats took the lead early, going up 14-8 in the first quarter. The Lady Lions fought back and trailed by only two at the break. Lithia took the lead in the third quarter, going up, 36-29.
“We had a mixed up lineup but the difference in the second quarter was that we held them to seven points,” said LSHS coach David Mills. “We defended better, making it tough for them.”
Kiana Johnson led Lithia with 14 points. Auna McCalla followed with 10. Arit Asanga added nine points, seven of which came in the second half.
The Lady Lions’ chance at the tournament title took a play in the opening game, when they suffered a loss. They were able to rebound and win their next two games.
“The bubble kind of popped on Thursday when we lost. We had to regroup and the kids did a good job of bouncing back to pick up two more victories before Christmas break,” Mills said.
The first half has had its ups and downs for the Lady Lions. Lithe has lost four games by a total of eight points.
“With those four wins, then everyone would think we are sitting great,” Mills said. “We will work on doing the little things over the break to help us get over the hump.”