Class 1A: Holmes County Captures First State Title.


By MIKE COBB

LEDGER CORRESPONDENT


LAKELAND | The impact that 6-foot-9 University of Florida signee Christopher Walker had in the Class 1A state championship game couldn’t be measured simply by his points.

The senior center for Bonifay Holmes County did score 30 of his team’s 59 points in the Blue Devils’ 59-40 win over West Gadsden Wednesday at The Lakeland Center.

But his impact was felt in many other ways as well. He also had 15 rebounds, seven blocked shots and during the one quarter when he didn’t score at all, Holmes County turned a one-point lead into an 11-point lead because West Gadsden double- and triple-teamed him leaving openings for the other Blue Devil players.

Or as Holmes County forward Jacky Miles put it, “We hopefully give Chris the ball and if he scores, he scores. If not, hopefully he kicks it back out and we score.”

That was pretty much the game plan that led Holmes County (20-8) to its first state basketball championship, which meant a celebration as awaiting them back in Bonifay.

“They’re going to have an eruption when we get back,” Holmes County coach Poe White said.

West Gadsden coach Andrew Moten was hoping for a similar homecoming. After Tuesday’s semifinal win, he pointed out that it has been 42 years since a team from Gadsden County has won a state title.

After Wednesday’s game, the only comment Moten had was, “They were the better team tonight.”

Moten was clearly upset with the officiating, going so far at the beginning of his postgame press conference to ask an FHSAA official if he could fined for being critical. When informed that yes, he could, Moten then simply said, “They were the better team tonight.”

Through the first half of the game, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Although Walker scored 17 in the first half, Holmes County held only a one-point halftime lead, 25-24.

It was in the third quarter – a quarter when Walker didn’t score – that the Blue Devils extended their lead to 11, 38-27, heading into the final quarter.

White said the key was defense. Holmes County held West Gadsden (25-10) to three points in the third quarter.

“They’re trying to double-team but I’ve got enough faith and confidence in my teammates that they’re going to get the ball and score,” Walker said.

The Blue Devils also turned it on defense. West Gadsden, which hit 9-of-20 shots in the first half, made just 1-of-8 in the third quarter and finished the game hitting just 14-of-44 shots (31.8 percent). Brandon Shingles, the Panthers’ top scorer averaging 19 points per game, scored just one point in the game.

“We just got hand in his face and played great defense,” Walker said.

Charis Fitzgerald, who led West Gadsden with 14 points, said it was more a case of the Panthers just not making shots in the second half.

“We started off overloading one side so they couldn’t guard me and Brandon at the same time,” said Fitzgerald, who scored all 14 of his points in the first half. “It just that the shots weren’t falling in the second half.”

West Gadsden ,made just 5-of-24 shots in the second half.

Again, that’s where Walker and his seven blocked shots had an impact, White said.

“He was tremendous defensively. I think he intimidated their players a little bit,” White said.

HOLMES COUNTY (59): Jacky Miles 1-4 7-9 9, Clayton Keen 3-8 0-0 7, Christopher Walker 9-12 12-16 30, Kolton Russ 1-2 3-6 6, Jonathon Williams 3-7 0-0 7, George Martinez 0-0 0-0, Cason Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Franklin Russ 0-0 0-0 0, Christopher Newton 0-1 0-0 0, Dawlton Aronhalt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-34 22-31 59.

WEST GADSDEN (40): Marquis Grown 4-9 0-2 8, Ricky Caeser 0-1 0-0 0, Charis Fitzgerald 5-15 1-2 14, Brandon Shingles 0-8 1-2 1, Patrick Gilyard 2-3 0-0 4, Archie Albritton 0-0 0-0 0,, Kurstin Hinson 2-5 4-5 9, Teron Fitzgerald 1-2 1-2 3, Melvin Johnson 0-0 1-1 1, Deont'e Jackson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-44 8-14 40.

Holmes County         18   7   13   21 -- 59

West Gadsden           13 11    3    13 -- 40




3-point FGs: HC 3-10 (Miles 0-2, Keen 1-4, K. Russ 1-1 Williams 1-3); WG 4-18 (C. Fitzgerald 3-7, Shinigles 0-6, Gilyard 0-1, Hinson 1-4). Rebounds: HC 34 (Walker 15), WG 20 (Brown 6). Assists: HC 10 (K. Russ 6); WG 10 (Gilyard 4). Records: Holmes County 20-8, West Gadsden 25-10.