Zebras dunk late win over St. Frances

Pine Bluff High School junior Deriyon Graydon closed out the King Cotton Holiday Classic with a two-handed dunk, sealing the Zebras’ 64-57 win over St. Frances Academy of Baltimore on Friday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Coach Billy Dixon said the Zebras played well in this year’s King Cotton.

“Today was a must-win game for us, because that set the tone moving forward,” Dixon said. “We leave from here going right into the conference season. You’d much rather spend your weekend recovering after playing three straight days with a win.” Graydon finished with 17 points, leading the Zebras. Randy Emerson Jr. scored 15, and Courtney Crutchfield added 14.

This game was a good bounce-back for Pine Bluff (10-3) after falling to Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) the night before. The Zebras finished the weekend 2-1 after opening the tournament by beating Duncan-ville (Texas). Gonzaga went on to win the King Cotton championship.

St. Frances (12-5) opened the game on an 8-0 run, but the Zebras answered. Kaleb Higgins hit a 3-pointer, then scored on a fast break to get Pine Bluff on the board. Pine Bluff led 16-13 after the first quarter thanks to a late 3-pointer by Crutchfield.

The Zebras never trailed again, but St. Frances kept it tight. Donovan Flamer tied the game midway through the second quarter with a 3-pointer, but Crutchfield gave Pine Bluff the lead back a minute later. The Zebras led by as much as 55-45 in the fourth, only for St. Frances to respond with a 9-2 run, capped off by a Cameren Fleming dunk in transition to cut the Pine Bluff lead to 57-54.

Crutchfield scored a 3-point play with 21 seconds left, but Josiah LeGree answered with a 3-pointer. St. Frances couldn’t get one last stop as Crutchfield dished the ball to Graydon for the final dunk.

Graydon said the slam was a nice way to close out the game after St. Frances tried to rally at the end.

“We just kept executing, staying with it,” Graydon said. “Basketball is a game of runs, so we knew they were going to make their run. We just had to come back and make our run.” Fleming finished with a game-high 20 points. Flamer scored 15, and Josiah LeGree added 10 for St. Frances.

R a p p e r Wa ka F l o c ka Flame performed briefly before the game, then held a longer performance after the game. His appearance could have been a distraction for the Zebras, but it didn’t stop them from playing well.

Dixon said he told his players he didn’t know who Waka Flocka Flame is, but he knows St. Frances.

“They all know who he is,” Dixon said. “Of course, I made a little joke, created me a couple crazy names and said them, and they all laughed about it. We had fun with it, but the key is, it’s about basketball business, and that’s what I said to them. So, they did come out with a business approach and understood.” Graydon said the Zebras had to hold back their excitement and focus on the task ahead.

“We was turnt up with Waka Flocka, but you know, we still warmed up,” Gray-don said. “Still had to do what we had to do, because we knew we had a big game ahead.”