By Bobby Mathews, Sports Editor
BIRMINGHAM – In the end, Ramsay harried and harassed a talented Leeds team until it could take no more, turning the tide of a Green Wave squad that led at halftime and at the end of the third quarter.
Of course, the only score that really matters is the final one, and the Rams beat Leeds for the second time this season, this time to secure the 5A Area 10 regular season championship, 59-52.
Leeds drops to 15-7 on the year, while Ramsay improves to 16-9.
The Green Wave’s inability to handle Ramsay’s press made a real difference down the stretch, as the Rams challenged every pass and created havoc as Leeds tried to bring the ball up the court. The Green Wave turned the ball over on their side of half court on multiple occasions – errors that are fatal against a team like Ramsay.
“We’re not as mentally tough as I thought we were,” Leeds head coach Jeremiah Millington said after the loss. “Their pressure for the full game, it wears on you. But we need guys who want to be in those situations. I don’t think we had guys who wanted to be in those situations. I think we had guys who wanted to get the ball out of their hands and have someone else do the job for them, and we ain’t gonna be able to beat a team like (Ramsay) if we don’t have guys step up and make plays down the stretch like we need them to.”
Jamal Jordan led the Green Wave with 17 points, while Tanner Chambers added 15 and Mekhi Jones had 10.
Jordan helped bring Leeds back from a 7-point deficit late in the first half, first hitting a soft jumper from about 10 feet out and then scoring on a layup to cut the Rams’ lead to 26-25. At the same time, the Green Wave defense clamped down and forced five straight turnovers. Jordan was then fouled on a three-point shot. The senior hit all three free throws to give Leeds a 28-26 lead with 1:21 left in the second quarter.
Senior point guard Josh Ruff was fouled bringing the ball up the court, and hit both ends of a 1-1 for a 30-26 advantage, but the Rams’ shooting guard Brandon Nixon proved that no lead was safe, lacing a three-pointer to bring the score to 30-29, Leeds. Chambers hit one of two free throws as the half ended to make it 31-29, Leeds
In the third quarter, Leeds tried to pull away, pushing to a 37-30 advantage after Jones hit a three-pointer from in front of Ramsay’s pep band. The Rams battled back behind Kerrington Keil, who had 8 points in the quarter, including a short jumper inside to tie it at 40 with 57.1 seconds left. Jones stepped up with another three-ball, this time from in front of the Leeds bench, to make it 43-40 in favor of the Green Wave going into the fourth quarter.
But Leeds couldn’t maintain its advantage as the Rams’ salty defense began to finally work its will. Jacquille Malone gave Ramsay the lead early in the fourth on a layup, then Jalen Jones hit a three for the home team. Malone got another easy layup, and that was enough for a seven-point swing and a 49-43 Rams lead.
“I always see it when we’re not physical,” Millington said. “I think there were a lot of moments when we could have been a little bit tougher, a little more physical, and we weren’t.”
Ramsay never trailed for the remainder of the game, securing the 59-52 victory to host the 5A Area 10 tournament.