By Brennan Waldorf
Last year’s reigning district regular champs took the court this week in Eastville against rival Arcadia High. An almost packed gym that was equally hot as it was loud saw both teams put it all on the floor and kept the crowd on its toes as they went blow-for-blow on the court.
The Yellow Jackets return six players, including three starters, from last year’s championship team that made it to the regional quarterfinals. This year will be senior-dominated with four of the starting five graduating after the season. Head coach Wayne Bell has been at the varsity reins for nine years and has high expectations for his Jackets. Last year’s team lacked depth but that won’t be an issue this year. “We have a lot of scorers and depth on the bench. They’ve been in my system awhile and know what’s expected, they just need to buy into the defensive aspect,” said Bell of this year’s squad.
The Jackets leading scorer and point guard last year was Bell’s son, and Bell got to witness the younger Bell score his 1,000th point as a senior last year. The departure of Bell’s son left a vacancy at the point position, which was filled by senior Broadwater transfer Ahmad Scarborough. Scarborough and all-region guard Vonte Coston will captain the Jacket squad and will be the driving force on offense for this year’s squad.
The game tipped off at 7 p.m. and if there was ever a play clock in high school basketball it wouldn’t have been needed for this game. The fast-pace Firebirds forced the Jackets to play at a high tempo that caused mistakes on both sides and coincided with the short possession times.
Northampton won the tipoff and opened scoring after a technical foul was called on Arcadia. Jeremiah Major made his first free throw but missed the second and Arcadia players were off to the races, as they often stretched the floor, quickly finding outlet passes and attacking the basket. The Jackets, behind at times, still managed to catch Arcadia and make what appeared to be open baskets more than difficult. The fast pace and overall nervousness of the players saw a lot of points left of the board as the teams were able to penetrate but not finish at the rim.
The first quarter ended with the score locked at 13 but the action on the floor told a different story than the scoreboard, as the energy and action was almost as high as the players desire to win. The second quarter saw substitutions and a smaller Jacket line up matched by Arcadia foul trouble. The Jackets pulled away with the strong shooting of Ahmad Scarborough and Vonte Coston finishing at the rim. Northampton outscored the Jackets 23-12 with William Scarborough scoring 9 of the Firebirds points, knocking down all three of his shots from the perimeter. The Jackets went on an 11-point run before an answer from Arcadia and closed the half ahead 36-24.
The second half started with another deep three from Arcadias’ Scarborough and the Jackets lead started to dwindle. The third quarter ended with an intense possession by the Jackets who had the possession with 1:01 in the quarter. Arcadia’s defense waited patiently as Vonte Coston sat at mid-court and drained the clock down to ten seconds. He drove and hit a jumper from the free-throw line, putting the Jackets up 47-41 going in the final quarter.
The fourth quarter saw the Jackets up 54-45 with 6:31 left after a three from Ahmad Scarborough. The Firebirds answered with a three of their own and a sudden fleeting of patience and a switch to urgency. The Firebirds’ defense began to create chaos, forcing a turnover that led to a fast break basket and a 54-50 score. An illegal screen call took possession from Northampton and allowed for a Kylen Wharton basket closing the gap further. A pass into traffic on the Jackets’ next possession was picked off and led to a made free throw by the Firebirds, followed by a fast break Lethon Williams lay-up. Arcadia was up 55-54 with 3:31 left and another Jacket turnover led to another Arcadia basket.
The final moments of the game saw Arcadia up 59-56 with the Jackets in possession of the ball. A timeout was called after a missed three that was recovered, and the Jackets set up a play but didn’t like what they saw. After another timeout, Ahmad attempted a three and missed but was fouled with 16 seconds left. With the game on the line, he missed one of the game-tying three free throws and with a successful Firebird inbound pass the game concluded. The Jackets fouled but didn’t have enough time to get a shot off after the Firebird free throws.
Arcadia was led by William Scarborough recording 21 points, Lethon Williams with 18, and Kam Downing tallying 8. They’ll be in back in action Dec. 17 at home against Chincoteague after the Firebirds’ Dec. 12 matchup against Nandua in Onley.
Northampton was led by Ahmad Scarborough recording 24 points and 10 rebounds, Vonte Coston finished with 15 points, 4 assists, and 2 steals. The Jackets will be at home tonight Dec. 13 against Chincoteague for a 7 p.m. tipoff.