By Loyd McIntosh, For The Tribune
LEEDS — Down by a single point with 3.5 seconds to play in overtime, the Leeds Green Wave brings the ball upcourt following a time-out. The Leeds offense swiftly swings the pill to sophomore point guard Tabair Davis for a chance to win.
However, Davis’ off-balance jumper comes up just short, bouncing off the rim as the Greenwave lose a heartbreaker to the Pelham Panthers, 55-54.
The loss, which moves Leeds to 4-11 on the season, was indicative of the Greenwave’s personality all year long, finding themselves behind early and on the ropes, only the fight back valiantly with an opportunity to win, according to Leeds Head Coach Jeremiah Millington.
“A lot of times, we’re reacting and trying to play catch up instead of being the aggressor and being the bully, which we have the ability to do,” Said Millington. “We want to get hit first and then respond when we need to come out a little more assertive.”
The first quarter saw Pelham jump out to an early 5-1 lead as the Greenwave struggled to find its rhythm offensively. The Panthers opened up with a quick two-pointer and a three-pointer before going cold from the perimeter themselves. For most of the first half, neither team looked great from outside, missing many open looks for three-pointers in what was shaping up to be a bit of a brick fest.
However, Pelham’s full-court defense forced a handful of turnovers leading to points in transition as the Panthers led the Greenwave at the end of the first quarter, 16-12. “I didn’t think we were very tough to start tonight,” said Millington. “They started the game tough and we kind of fought back a little bit. By the start, for us, just wasn’t very good.”
In the second quarter, Leeds leaned on their big man, sophomore forward Gavin Bowlin, and the shooting of Davis as the Greenwave went on a 7-3 to tie the game at 19-19 with just under four minutes to play in the first half. Pelham answered with a bucket and foul shot on their next possession to regain the lead, 22-19. The Panthers immediately stole the inbound pass and converted a layup pushing the lead to five points, 24-19.
Leeds battled back cutting Pelham’s lead to two points at halftime, 26-24.
The Greenwave started the third quarter hot as Bowlin hit a short-range jumper to tie the game, 26-26. Moments later, after Pelham once again regained the lead by three, Bowlin cut Pelham’s lead to one point after converting a nifty left-handed layup.
Leeds finally captured its first lead of the game following a driving layup by Chirs Burge with just under six minutes to play in the third quarter, 30-29. Pelham immediately answered as Jackson Germeck drained a long-range two-point jumper to regain the lead, 31-30.
Despite going ice cold from long range, Pelham pushed its lead to four points, 37-33 as Millington called a timeout with 1:41 to play in the third quarter.
However, Bowlin was benched for the remainder of the game midway into the third quarter following a negative exchange with Millington during the timeout in which a handful of expletives by the head coach could be heard in the bleachers behind the bench.
The third quarter came to a close with Pelham up by only two points, 38-36. Leeds got off to a shaky start in the fourth quarter, forced to take a timeout on the opening inbound pass due to Pelham’s defensive pressure.
The Panthers and Greenwave played an exciting back-and-forth fourth quarter. Leeds finally found success from the three-point line as Davis and Graham Gulock each hit huge three-pointers to keep Leeds in the game.
Then, with 1:30 to play in regulation, junior guard Jaelyn Felder sank a three-pointer to put Leeds on top, 49-47. However, Pelham’s Joe Wimberly was fouled on a drive in the paint and sank both free throws to tie the game, 49-49, with under a minute to play in regulation.
Leeds had a go-ahead shot blocked and Pelham was unable to sink a last-second shot, sending the game into overtime. In the extra period, Pelham jumped out to a fast start only to see Leeds keep it close with a chance to win only to fall short of what would have been a gritty comeback for Millington’s young Greenwave squad.
“They’re young and growing. We have a bunch of sophomores running around out there. We just Just moments of immaturity, lack of focus,” said Millington.
“But it speaks a lot to their competitive spirit the way we fought until the end,” Millington added. “They’re not just going to give up. They’re not going to quit in any game at any moment.”
Leeds will finish out the season with games against Gardendale, Carver, John Caroll, and Briarwood leading into the area tournament. Millington said the quality competition will give them a chance to gain valuable experience as the season draws to a close.
“We have some really good competition to finish out the season and every one of those teams looks different. I hope every time we play we can run some different stuff and change it up a little bit,” Millington said. “But it’s going to be some good competition to get us ready for next season, that’s for sure.”