Ragland 67, Winterboro 63: Purple Devils hold off Bulldogs’ rally for first area title since 2013

A valuable performance

Ragland senior Sloan Phillips scored 18 points and earned tournament MVP.

ALPINE -- Ragland High School’s boys basketball team held off a late comeback by Winterboro to win 67-63 in the championship game of the Class 1A, Area 9 Tournament on Saturday night.

The Purple Devils withstood a 46-point second-half barrage from the Bulldogs after entering the intermission ahead 33-17. Ragland head coach Andrew Eden said it was the school’s first area title since 2013.

“We’re obviously very happy,” Eden said. “These players put in a lot of hard work over the summer and a lot of work over the last few years. They deserve all the credit. They decided they wanted to be good and they came out and played well together. They’ve had a great chemistry about them all year.”

Trailing 60-53 with 2:02 to play, Winterboro went on a 7-0 run to tie the contest inside the final minute. Ragland junior Josh Phillips, who scored 14 points, made the go-ahead basket as the Purple Devils outscored the Bulldogs 7-3 to end the game.

Purple Devils senior Sloan Phillips, the tournament’s MVP, scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half to help keep the Bulldogs at bay.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “When you’re young, you just think about stuff like this and you never think this could happen, but it’s great. We finally finished it out. That’s one thing we’ve got to do is learn how to finish. We let go of a 16-point lead, but we came back and finished strong.”

The pair of Phillipses joined senior Nathaniel Kelley (14 points) and junior CJ Lawler (17) on the all-tournament team.

Eden said it’s been a common occurrence for Ragland to have four players in double-figures.

“Obviously, it helps,” he said. “It’s hard (for a team) to beat somebody when you’re putting four players in double figures, it really is. It’s been a plus for us all year.”

Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said his team started the contest slow.

“We had a horrible shooting night, but that’s part of basketball,” he said. “Some of the things I’ve been pointing out kind of came back to haunt us tonight. Ragland came out probably a step more determined than we were. They withstood our fight. This is probably the fourth game we’ve lost this year in a comeback. 

“Fortunately, we live to play another game. This is not the only time that teams have lost in the area championship game, but I know this is the first loss for our guys in the new gym.”

Smith said troubles at the free-throw line late stifled Winterboro’s comeback. Winterboro went 3 of 6 inside the final minute.

“You’ve got the opportunity,” he said. “Nobody can control it at the free-throw line, only you. We put ourselves into a situation like this and we had to dig our way out. It just didn’t fall our way.”

Three to know

- Bulldogs senior Cameron Pointer played a key role in his team’s rally with 21 of his 27 points coming in the second half. He hit a 3-pointer during Winterboro’s run to tie the game that got the bench and the fans in attendance on their feet.

- Winterboro lost the heart of its inside presence with 4:30 remaining when senior Brandon Dandridge picked up his fifth foul. He ended his night with eight points.

- Pointer, sophomore Chance Dandridge (20 points) and senior Kameron Edwards earned spots on the all-tournament team.

Who said

- Eden on facing Jacksonville Christian in a sub-regional: “We’ve won two and lost one against them. It ought to be a great, even matchup. They’re been ranked in the Top 10 all year. They’re a great basketball team -- all seniors -- and we’ll have to play well to beat them.”

- Smith on facing Spring Garden in a sub-regional: “It’s a good matchup. Both our teams match up the same way … They’re a well-balanced team. We haven’t been to Spring Garden in a while. The last time we went there was 2013. We’ve only played twice to my knowledge in our history of the boys program.”

Up next

- Winterboro (15-12) will travel to Spring Garden to face the Panthers (21-6) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

- Ragland (21-4) will host Jacksonville Christian Academy (21-6) on Tuesday at 7.