Monday afternoon in the Bruce High School gym, freshman Donta Armstrong was trying to duplicate the magical shot from last Saturday night that lifted the Bruce Trojans over the Calhoun City Wildcats 61-59 in the North State Championship at Baldwyn.
He couldn’t get it to fall Monday afternoon, but it didn’t matter. It tickled the twine when it needed to Saturday night.
Calhoun City was leading 59-58 in the back-and-forth game with only seconds remaining to play.
“I looked up, and I saw 4.3 seconds on the clock, and I knew I had to shoot it,” Armstrong said right after the game. “When I let it go, I thought it was off, but God was with me. I thank God for that shot.”
Calhoun City Coach Darren Coffey could do nothing but throw his hands up after the wild shot dropped through the basket, sending his team to Jackson as a two-seed.
“I just froze,” Coffey said. “Ta kept me up all night with that shot. I just kept seeing it over and over again.”
The celebrating for the Trojans and their “raucous” fans in Baldwyn continued all weekend.
Devin Tillman, one of only two seniors on the Bruce team, summed up the bus ride home in one word – “incredible.” The team received a police escort home with sirens flashing. Fans with signs greeted them on the Bruce Square as they rolled into town.
Things were much more subdued for the Wildcats who are making their third trip to Jackson under Coach Coffey. They could only think of how close they came to earning the North title.
It was only a week ago at West Lowndes High School in Columbus that the celebration was reversed. Calhoun City led by three in that game when Shaq Bush’s last second 3-pointer rimmed off to secure the 2-2A crown for the ‘Cats.
Although Calhoun City has clearly had the upper hand in the rivalry in recent times, every game brings with it an unreal intensity, whether it be in a preseason exhibition or the North State Final.
The Wildcats won three of the five matchups this season. The first was a nail-biter in the Bruce gym where the Trojans rallied from behind to pull away for a late victory.
They next met in the Vardaman Tournament with plans to mostly use JV squads. The intensity of the game quickly threw that out the window and the Wildcats ultimately earned a convincing win.
The following Friday they squared off in ‘City where the Trojans opened a 21-point lead at the half, only to see the ‘Cats rally for an incredible win.
Then came the West Lowndes tilt with the Trojans’ final shot rimming out, and the memorable game from Saturday night when Armstrong’s desperation heave rung true.
Now the possibility remains for yet the biggest matchup possible – Bruce vs Calhoun City for the state championship. For that to happen they will both have to come up with victories against stiff competition in Jackson this Saturday. But if we’ve learned nothing else to this point, it’s that anything is possible this year with Bruce and Calhoun City basketball.
You may email Joel McNeece at firstname.lastname@example.org