BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
There are a multitude of reasons why fans are obsessed with high school basketball. There is no shortage in pageantry, passion and excitement. Any player can make an impact on any given night. Emotions run high on all occasions. Thursday night’s instant-classic contest between the hometown Lee-Scott Academy Warriors and the Glenwood Gators had it all.
Between a pair of 10-point comebacks and overcoming an apparent disadvantage in depth, head coach Dusty Purdue and the rest of the Gators returned home with an impressive 71-67 win on their record.
“We got down by 10 in the first, cut it down to two at the half,” Purdue said. “Got down by 10 in the third and then just kept chipping away.”
The squad’s ability to overcome more than one double-digit deficit was due — in large — to its ability to out rebound its opponent despite navigating the contest with fewer substitutions.
“I was proud of the way we rebounded the basketball,” Purdue said. “We played very limited guys.”
With a limited available squad and a high-caliber opponent, Purdue had to dial up a brand of defense that was both effective in forcing empty possessions and keeping his guys out of foul trouble.
“The thing is I want to play man so bad,” Purdue said. “But I know we’re playing with a bunch of football players that will body up on you because they love the physical contact so sometimes that’s not good for us.”
Defensive adjustments proved to be a determining factor when LSA junior Alex Cash began to pick the Gators apart in the second half, finding a way to score both in the paint and from the perimeter.
“You don’t expect anything from what I’ve got on film but Cash goes crazy there in the third quarter,” Purdue said. “Then he hits two or three threes from the top of the key. Then he takes us off the dribble.”
Cash posted 25 points in the Warriors loss.
As is often the case in basketball at all levels, the orange and green began to find its success when it caught fire at just the right time. Luckily for fans of the program, that rhythm developed with just under five minutes remaining in the contest.
“Things just sort of went our way the last five minutes of the game,” Purdue said “My kids really fought with their hearts. I was really proud of the way they played, the way they didn’t give up.”
With the game decided in the final moments of regulation, the gym at Lee-Scott Academy was electric. Purdue was simply excited to have been a part of it.“Just a great basketball atmosphere, win or lose,” Purdue said. “Always is.”Purdue’s squad now finds themselves winners in eight of their past nine contests and will have the opportunity to add to the season’s overall win total in Troy, Alabama on Friday night when the Gators travel to take on the Patriots of Pike Liberal Arts at 5 p.m. CST.