The setting for Saturday’s Division I championship game between the top-seeded Scotlandville Hornets and the number two St. Augustine Purple Knights seemed more like a high-level scrimmage than a state championship final.
A crowd of less than 40 people was present to watch the Hornets capture their fourth consecutive championship, soundly beating the Purple Knights 66-39. It was the second straight loss in the finals for St. Aug, both at the hands of Scotlandville.
Taireon Joseph and Cavell Teasett scored 20 points each to lead the Hornets, while game MVP and University of Virginia commit Reece Beekman scored 16 points.
D’Mari Wiltz (13) and Jaron Pierre (11) combined for 66 percent of their team’s points to lead the Purple Knights.
It was a decisive end to a strange week.
“[Our team] won by like 20-plus, so it has to be some type of mental fortitude that’s in them,” said Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample, now 131-14 over the last four seasons. “It’s in the makeup of their DNA, or Scotlandville basketball DNA or something…to come out here and perform like they did, and really have the game in check halfway through the second quarter.”
Scotlandville was not bothered by the unusual circumstances. Playing on their home floor, they seized control of the game early. After falling behind 3-0 in the first two minutes, the Hornets went on a 10-0 run. Joseph and Teasett both knocked down three-pointers, setting the tone for a Hornets barrage from deep that would follow.
Led by Teasett’s five threes, the Hornets made twelve total, outscoring St. Augustine by 27 points from beyond the arc.
“They shoot the ball very well at their gym,” said Purple Knights head coach Mitchell Johnson. “All year they did a great job of getting in transition and making shots. We had some blown assignments in transition, so they were able to capitalize on our mistakes.”
The first quarter ended with the Purple Knights trailing 10-6, and that’s as close as it would get. In the second quarter, Scotlandville outscored St. Augustine 23-10. Joseph and Teasett added four more three pointers, and Beekman got into the action with 10 points as the Hornets went into the half leading 33-16. As good as they scored the basketball, they were just as dominant defensively, limiting the Purple Knights to five first half baskets.
Scotlandville was no less relentless on the defensive end in the third quarter, as St. Aug was able to score just once from the floor. While the Purple Knights were misfiring, the Hornets were continuing to get production from their big three. Beekman, Joseph, and Teased all scored two baskets each, continuing their balanced attack. With a 49-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the clock was the only thing standing between the Hornets and the title.
Jaron Pierre tried to get St. Aug going, scoring nine of his 11 points in the final period, but the Purple Knights were never able to put a dent into the deficit. Scotlandville won the fourth quarter as well, dominating from start to finish.
It was just one of those nights for St. Aug. Nothing went right. The venue wasn’t the issue, nor was the lack of a crowd. For the Purple Knights, the loss was a result of their own mistakes, plain and simple.
“Everything they did, every time they scored, it was something we went through and went over at practice,” said Pierre. “We just didn’t execute.”
Mitchell would make no excuses for his team’s tough outing. “It’s the state championship basketball game,” he said. “Still gotta be able to come on the road and play basketball the way you know how to play.”
With tough losses to end the past two seasons, Mitchell has not lost any confidence that the Purple Knights will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
“I made a comment last year in Lake Charles that we were going to be back, and I’m going to make that comment again, we’re gonna be back again,” he added. “Coach [Sample] does a great job with his ball club. They play well together, and that’s who I have to chase right now.”
With no championships left on the high school or collegiate horizon, there isn’t a single sports fan who can wait for the chase to resume.