Velma Jackson put-back bucket knocks Enterprise from 1A playoffs

Published 11:14 am Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The new gym at Enterprise had the buzz of excitement that comes with hosting a playoff basketball game on Tuesday. There was palpable energy from the home stands as the Yellow Jacket fans cheered for their team in the first round of the MHSAA 1A boys’ basketball playoffs.

The night was filled with moments that gave the Jacket supporters in attendance a reason to celebrate and it was nearly a perfect night, if not for the final seconds of the game.

Velma Jackson senior forward Cornell Bacon came flying in for an offensive rebound put-back that proved to be the winning points of a 58-56 victory for the visiting Falcons. Bacon’s bucket came with just 10 seconds remaining in the game and gave Velma Jackson the lead after the Falcons from Camden had trailed for nearly the entire night.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The home side of the gym went silent after a last second 3-point attempt by Enterprise was off the mark, setting off a party amongst the small group of Velma Jackson fans that had made the 112-mile drive south to Lincoln County.

Bacot scored the final six points of the game for Velma Jackson, all on offensive rebound putbacks. Bacon was also an All-State linebacker on a VJ football team that finished 13-1 and lost in the 1A state championship game.

First year Enterprise head coach Rusty Newman and his team controlled the tempo and pace with a well-executed game plan for nearly the entire 32 minutes of play. In the final quarter, Velma Jackson began to scramble around the court to claw back momentum, flying to the ball like their namesake.

The pace became frantic late, and that’s when the Falcons looked their best.

Part of what made Enterprise hosting a playoff game so exciting was the fact that no one could exactly put a finger on when the last time it had happened for the Yellow Jackets. The amateur school historians, the people who keep up with that kind of information, could only speculate that it was possibly some time shortly after the turn of the 21st century when EAC last earned a home game in the postseason.

Newman and his crew earned the playoff home game by beating Sacred Heart Catholic 45-42 in the semifinals of the Region 8-1A Tournament. That was the third meeting of the season between EAC and Sacred Heart, with the Yellow Jackets winning by four points at home in the first meeting and then losing by 25 when the teams played again in Hattiesburg.  

East Marion topped Enterprise in the region tournament championship. East Marion finished with a perfect 12-0 record in regular season region play, but the closest they came to defeat was a five-point win at Enterprise during the season.

No one likes moral victories, but it was still a good night for Enterprise basketball, despite what the final score read. The Yellow Jackets end the season with a 12-13 overall record and lose just one senior who played on Tuesday in guard Jerrod Nations. 

Junior guard Landon McNickles led Enterprise with 15 points. Sophomore guard Kelly Burgess added 12 points, sophomore forward Patrick Pendleton scored 10 points and sophomore guard Jonathan McNickles scored eight points for the Jackets. Rounding out the EAC scoring was junior Daylan Barden with seven points and Nations with four points. 

It feels wild to even write that Enterprise hosted Velma Jackson in a 1A playoff game, seeing how the Falcons from Madison County were a longtime power in the 3A ranks before going 2A for two seasons and now ending up in 1A after the most recent round of reclassification.

Led by the star duo of brothers Quindary and Nick Weatherspoon, Velma Jackson won five MHSAA 3A state titles in a seven-year span, most recently hoisting a gold ball in 2019.

Last season, VJ was bounced from the 2A playoffs when Bogue Chitto visited Camden and left with an 85-73 overtime victory.

Even though Bacon scored the last six points of the game for Velma, the Falcons would have been in no position to win the game had it not been for the play of junior guard Jamarquez Davis. 

Davis was the only Falcon to hit double figures, finishing with a game high 37 points. He hit six 3-pointers, all in the second half, with four of those coming in the fourth quarter. 

Enterprise started the fourth quarter off with a 3-pointer from Landon McNickles and a tough layup by Barden that put them ahead 49-36, which would be the apex of the Yellow Jacket lead.

Davis hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the wing and just as quickly as the lead had ballooned, it was back down to 49-42. 

Later in the quarter, Davis canned a 3-pointer that cut the Enterprise advantage to 49-47 with 3:52 left in the game. His final 3-pointer of the night trimmed the Jacket lead to 51-50 with two minutes left.

Velma Jackson wasn’t huge, but they were longer and bouncier than the Yellow Jackets and keeping them off the boards by sinking down into a tighter zone on defense is how Enterprise was able to limit second-chance points for most of the night, but it was also how Davis got his most open looks from deep. 

Newman was still thinking about those tactics as he emerged from the post-game locker room.

“We face guarded Davis late and we might have should gone to that earlier, but we were doing such a good job of blocking out and securing rebounds, that you hate to go away from what was working,” said Newman. “After they went up with 10 seconds left, I debated calling a timeout, but I wanted us to push it down and try to get something before they set up. I just hate it for my guys. They played so hard and were so composed all night, but Velma made some big plays right there at the end.”

Velma Jackson (15-13) moves on to play South Delta (19-5) in the second round.

“We’ve grown by leaps and bounds since I took this job last year,” said Newman. “We’ll miss Jerrod and the leadership that he brings, but I’m excited about bringing almost everybody back next year and I think we’ll learn from and grow from this, despite how bad it hurts right now.”