Sitting there after the game, they were trying to hold back the tears. Ty Hutto and Tayi Strickland sat having just finished their final game in Red Devil uniform. The emotions of what had just transpired were hitting hard.
Lawrence County fell Saturday morning to Jasper 60-52. The loss brought to an end one of the greatest runs the Red Devil basketball program has ever experienced.
“This was a heck of ride,” said Hutto. “These guys, these coaches, I wouldn’t trade them or anything we accomplished this year for anything in the world.”
“These are my boys,” Strickland said. “I would do anything for them.”
Lawrence County finished the year with. 27-5 record and ranked No. 6 in the state in 5A. They also secured the first berth at the regional tournament in 13 years. All of this coming in a year when nobody saw it coming.
“Nobody really expected this out of us,” said Lawrence County co head coach Gary Steadman. “We were a game under .500 last year and we lost our big man. But we just played better as a team this year, we had seven seniors and they really fueled us.”
Lawrence County jumped out early, picking up right where they left on Tuesday night. Garrett Lee had 8 points in the first quarter as the Red Devils led until the very end of it.
However, Jasper, fresh off an upset of Wenonah, the defending state champions, soon found their bearings. The Vikings tied the game 12-12 after the first quarter, led 28-23 at halftime and pushed their lead to as much as 13 in the third.
Meanwhile, the Red Devils couldn’t buy a bucket from the three point range. In a year when the three ball had powered their offense, they finished with just one against the Vikings.
“We only hit one, one out of sixteen and that’s tough,” said Steadman. “We didn’t get a lot of good looks. Ty, Malik (Strickland), Tayi, John (Humphries) and a couple off our bench can all shot well from the perimeter but they just weren’t falling.”
Despite the poor shooting though, they still managed a comeback in the fourth quarter after ending the third on a 5-0 run. Tayi Strickland hit the team’s only three which sparked a run. Hutto , who led the team with 15 points, made big plays at the rim while Malik Strickland, who had 13, made several cutch free throws. All of this led to them trimming the lead to 49-48.
But Jasper had been here before and it showed. The Vikings hit back to back big three pointers that pretty much sealed the game.
“They made several big shots there at the end,” Steadman said. “We were hoping they’d miss but unfortunately they didn’t.”
Despite the loss, Steadman expressed just how much this team did, saying just how much impact it will have on the program.
“We have a great fanbase, one of the best in the state in my opinion, and this team did so much for this program,” he said. “These seven seniors were true leaders and I think they laid a foundation for those coming up to continue to have success.”