By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Through the first 13.5 minutes of game time, Blue Eye was doing most everything right.
The Bulldogs led in a low-scoring game and were forcing Greenwood star Aminu Mohammed into missed shots and turnovers.
Then, Greenwood erased it all.
With a backbreaking buzzer-beater to close the first half and a dominant third quarter, the Blue Jays took control for good.
Greenwood erupted in the second half and pulled away for its second district title in three seasons, defeating Blue Eye 60-45 in the Class 2 District 10 Tournament title game at Spokane High School.
“It was a great team effort out there,” said Mohammed, who finished with 28 points and, unofficially, 15 rebounds. “We played hard, with effort against a really good team. We had a bad first half, but came out in the second half and got it going.”
The Blue Jays outscored Blue Eye 20-5 in a decisive third quarter.
Greenwood faces Hartville at 6 p.m. Wednesday night at Mountain Grove High School in the Class 2 sectional round.
“There’s a little added pressure, I think, just to get through your district,” said Greenwood coach Darren Taylor. “Both teams are going to be well prepared and play hard. I thought our kids came out with a lot of energy in the second half and were able to get away.”
Leading by five at halftime, the Blue Jays (25-3 overall) started the second half on a 16-1 run. Blue Eye never got within single digits the rest of the way
“We panicked for about a two-minute spurt at the start of the second half, and that’s really what cost us the game,” said Blue Eye coach Kyle Turner. “You can’t play from behind against a team that has a player like (Aminu). Not just him, their point guard does a good job and they have a freshman who’s a really good shooter and senior role players who didn’t want their season to end.”
Mohammed delivered the dagger when he drained a step-back 3-pointer in transition that put the Blue Jays ahead by 17 at the time.
“I was coming down the floor, and defenders were playing me to drive and trying to take the charge,” Mohammed said. “I said, ‘No, I’m just going to pull up and hit this 3.’ I pulled up and shot it. I was feeling it.”
Blue Eye jumped out to an early 12-5 lead behind nine points from senior Andrew Mitchell. Greenwood slowly chipped away at the deficit before taking the lead late in the second quarter.
With Greenwood trying to run a set play, point guard Grant Harper improvised. He buried an NBA-range 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Blue Jays a 23-18 lead at halftime.
“I’ve been warming up on that shot,” Harper said. “We couldn’t get our play running, so I said, ‘I’m going to take this.’ I shot it and knocked it down. It was a big shot. Changed the game and our mindset.”
After trailing for most of the first half, Greenwood took a two-possession lead into the locker room.
“It gave us a little bit of confidence to know we were going to come out in the second half and play better than we did in the first half,” Taylor said.
Mohammed scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half.
“We had done a great job, our interior guys, on the bottom and contesting Mohammed and keeping him off the boards. That’s where we thought he could really hurt us,” Turner said. “To hold him to six points was a huge accomplishment. Then, that third quarter bit us a little bit.”
“And we didn’t make shots. If we make shots and get to set our defense, life’s a lot better.”
Blue Eye finishes 20-7 overall, its second straight season reaching the 20-win plateau.
Greenwood 60, Blue Eye 45
Blue Eye 12 7 5 21 — 45
Greenwood 10 13 20 17 — 60
Blue Eye – Andrew Mitchell 19, Jake Reagan 10, Nathan Garnett 9, Hayden Forester 4, Lance Clark 3
Greenwood – Aminu Mohammed 28, John Sharp 10, Garrett Litherland 9, Grant Harper 8, Tommy Pinegar 5