Words by Skylar Lara | Images by Justin Hunter
It was a riveting night of basketball on November 7 as Bevill State Community College, a school with a rich basketball history, soared to victory over Tennessee Valley Prep out of Huntsville. The storyline of the game was the debut of head coach Billy Conner, who begins his first season at Bevill after a legendary career at Corner High School. Due to ongoing construction at “The House that Clem Built,” the game was moved to Songer Gymnasium next door. Despite the change of venue, the arena was lively with cheering fans, radiating an atmosphere of excitement and nervous anticipation for the Conner era to begin.
After Tennessee Valley won the opening tip-off, both teams got off to a slow start. But the Bears increased defensive pressure, implementing a full-court press, which led to opportunities in transition on the offensive end and a 16-point lead. The Bears’ 6-foot-6 forward Ja’myas Davis displayed excellent defensive skills and fought for loose balls, while guard Isaiah Daniels netted two consecutive three-pointers with minutes remaining in the first half. But the Defenders slowly chipped away, converting a three-point play just before intermission to narrow the Bevill lead to 38-35.
TVP shifted the momentum in the second half by matching Bevill’s aggressiveness. At one point, Tennessee Valley held the lead for over six minutes before a free throw by the Bears’ Brandon Tinsley tied the game.
Multiple lead changes defined the second half, and Tennessee Valley took the lead again with 4:12 left in the game. But a beautiful move and step-back jumper by Donovan Shangase put Bevill ahead 70-69. In the subsequent possession, Shangase attacked the lane for a reverse layup to extend the lead to 72-69 with 1:47 left in the game.
In the waning moments, tensions ran high as Tennessee Valley’s coach was hit with a technical, and one of the players expressed his disgust by removing his jersey and darting into the locker room. After this turn of events, Bevill began pulling away, capturing an 81-72 victory as the buzzer sounded.
“We played decently at times,” said Bears’ coach Billy Conner. “However, we lacked consistency and need to improve our shooting. We took too many three-pointers, and while we didn’t play poorly, we also didn’t play very well. This should have been a game that we won easily, but instead, we ended up blowing a 16-point lead.”
Offensively, Davis paced the Bears with 16 points and nine boards, while Daniels chipped in 14 points. Brandon Tinsley and Allister Dixon grabbed six rebounds apiece.
Conner and the Bears will host East Central Mississippi at Songer Gymnasium on November 11. WL