During a class Tuesday morning, Beddingfield boys basketball coach Joseph Dvozenja was asked by a student in semi-joking fashion if Farmville Central superstar Tyler Maye was going to light up Dvozenja’s Bruins for 80 points later that night in the most important Eastern Plains 2A Conference game of the season to date.
“I told the kid that if it got close to that, we would just have to put four guys on (Maye),” Dvozenja said.
It almost did come to that as Maye, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, delivered 47 points despite being surrounded for most of the outing by three Beddingfield players as part of the Bruins’ 1-3-1 defensive scheme.
Despite Maye’s amazing effort, which even drew post-game accolades from the Bruins’ public-address announcer, it was host Beddingfield that came away with a spirited 93-91 comeback victory to move into a first-place tie with the defending state champion Jaguars for the top spot in the EPC with one contest remaining.
But Beddingfield (14-8, 7-2) owns the tie-breaker over Farmville (13-7, 7-2) courtesy of two regular season decisions over the Jaguars – including Tuesday’s thriller.
Both clubs will be tested in Friday’s regular season finales as the Bruins will be at SouthWest Edgecombe, while Farmville will be on the road at North Pitt.
“We can’t avoid a letdown against SouthWest,” Dvozenja said. “This was the biggest win in the careers of all of these guys, myself included. But we have one more step to take.”
Beddingfield’s victory seemed unlikely at halftime as the Bruins trailed 34-20, with the hot-shooting Maye scoring 29 of his squad’s points, mostly from long range.
But Beddingfield’s speed and transition ability started to take over in the second half, and the Bruins rallied to lead by six points with 33 seconds to play.
Farmville responded to tie the score at 91-91 following an intentional foul and ensuing driving basket from Jahkei Harris at the 12-second mark.
Eschewing a timeout, the Bruins immediately pushed the ball up the floor, and Tobias Cooper made a 45-foot bounce pass near midcourt that took one hop and found the hands of an in-stride Kenny Sims, whose layup with six seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner.
Maye attempted a 35-footer at the buzzer, but it glanced off the rim as Beddingfield’s players and fans rushed the court in celebration.
“We were not in attack mode in the second half,” said Jaguars’ veteran coach Larry Williford. “We weren’t working to get shots in the paint. We just settled for a lot of jumpers, and those missed led to transition (for the Bruins). Give Beddingfield credit – they played hard and fought through some adversity.”
In addition to Maye’s excellence, Farmville received 22 points from Harris and 10 tallies from Justin Wright.
Beddingfield countered with 24-point nights from Noah Ivery and Madeus Knight, along with 15 points from Cooper and 12 points from Sims, who missed much of the second half with an injury – but came back to secure the winning layup.
The girls game might not have been as electric, but it still had plenty of EPC implications as Farmville Central came through in a must-win situation with a 51-42 triumph over the Bruins.
Farmville’s decison, coupled with SouthWest Edgecombe’s loss at North Johnston, puts the Jaguars into a first-place tie with SouthWest at 7-2.
Farmville is also 16-3 overall, while Beddingfield, in a rare rebuilding mode with just two seniors, slipped to 6-16 and 0-9.
Kayla Barrett, celebrating her 18th birthday, paced the Jaguars with 20 points and was the lone double-digit scorer for Farmville Central.
Using a stifling half-court trap defense, Farmville took a 16-8 lead after one quarter and never trailed the rest of the way.
Makayla Everette topped the Bruins with nine points.
was a boys assistant under Williford before taking over the girls squad in 2011.
“Our girls saw the boys win the state title last year, so they made a goal to try to do that this year,’’ Harper said. “When you get to the playoffs, you play different teams that you don’t know. You have to play your game, see what happens and hope things go your way.’’
If the Jaguars’ make a deep postseason surge, Barrett will inevitably play a key role in the success. Beddingfield had a surprise gift for Barrett’s birthday on Tuesday -- a box-and-one defense. Still, Barrett effectively worked her way through the scheme while taking Farmville to just one victory away from no worse than a share of the league crown.
“I didn’t even know we would be playing on my birthday until the other night,’’ Barrett said. “But there is no better way to spend your birthday than doing something you love.
“It would be great (to compete for a state title), especially after how last year ended.’’
For Farmville to earn a share of the EPC championship, the Jaguars will have to find a way to win Friday at North Pitt in what will be the biggest challenge of the season for Harper’s club.
SouthWest Edgecombe, which split its regular season meetings with Farmville, will host Beddingfield in the Cougars’ finale.