Barnes scores 25 in Oak Grove's region championship win over Meridian

By CAMAL PETRO,

MERIDIAN – The third time was the charm for the Oak Grove Warriors.

After falling victim to Meridian in the previous two regular-season matchups, the Warriors finally got over the hump Friday night. In the Region 5-6A Tournament Championship at Meridian, Oak Grove took down the Wildcats 72-69 in overtime.

The battle of two of the state’s best teams featured eight ties and 13 lead changes until Oak Grove sophomore Jay Barnes gave the Warriors the lead for good. Trailing 69-68 in overtime, he drove into the lane and sent a floater towards the rim, and it was a shot he’s been practicing for years.

“I knew it was going in,” Barnes said. “I work on it so much.”

The ball swished through the net, giving Oak Grove a 1-point lead with more than 20 seconds left in overtime.

“I tell them all the time, ‘shoot the ball with confidence,’” Oak Grove coach LaRon Brumfield said. “When he let it go, he looked like he was confident, so I was good with it.”

The Warriors held strong on the defensive end of the floor, then senior Tate Ryder added two free throws for insurance before the buzzer sounded, putting the Warriors in celebration mode.

Barnes led the Warriors with 25 points, but he scored 12 of those points in the fourth quarter and overtime. With Meridian leading 55-52 midway through the fourth, the sophomore guard caught fire.

But before Barnes took over, Oak Grove need to bounce back after Meridian finished the third quarter by scoring eight of the final 10 points to take a 51-43 lead. Ryder and senior Brandon Tilley began the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers, then Ryder added two free throws to quickly tie the game 51-51.

“It was adversity that we had to fight through,” Barnes said. “Coach always tells us to fight through adversity, and that’s what we did.”

Barnes got going by hitting one his signature floater shots through the lane, then he added a 3-pointer to give Oak Grove a 57-55 lead. After the team’s traded the lead again, Barnes hit another jumper to push Oak Grove ahead 63-59.

The Wildcats wouldn’t go down quietly, however, scoring five straight points to jump up 1. But, junior Blake Roberts hit a shot to put Oak Grove up again with seconds remaining in regulation. Meridian tied the game, setting up one last chance for Oak Grove, but a traveling call gave Meridian the ball with 4 seconds left.

That put Oak Grove in a familiar position. When these teams met last, Meridian hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer to win, and it seemed like the storyline was playing out the same way.

“In my mind I was like, ‘Ain’t no way they’re going to make another one,’” Brumfield said. “It was possible because they got a good shot at it.”

But, Meridian’s shot was blocked by Oak Grove senior Johnny Magee to send the game to an extra period.

The two combined for just nine points in overtime, but Barnes scored all five of Oak Grove’s points.

“(Barnes) has been like that all year,” Brumfield said. “Pretty much the whole team, any given night somebody will step up, and he just had that feel tonight. That’s what you have to have in a good point guard.

“I’m glad he’s only a sophomore.”

It wasn’t just Barnes who contributed, though. Ryder scored 15, sophomore Dylan Brumfield added 14 and Tilley chipped in 11.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my teammates,” Barnes said. “We fought hard. That’s all I can say.”