PERRY -- Stacy Masten scored 22 points and Trey Sparrow added 21 to lead Cairo to a 56-50 win over Perry in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs Wednesday. The Syrupmakers improve to 18-11, while Perry, which won the Region 2-AAAA title, ends the year at 19-8.
“We knew from the start that we were two evenly matched teams,” said Cairo head coach Ike Chance, whose team rallied from a three-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. “We both play the same type of basketball, and I thought it was a great game. We were fortunate to make a few more big plays in the end.”
The biggest lead either team could get in the first half was a five-point lead by the Panthers early in the second quarter when Damion Bagley, who ended the game with a team-high 12 points, scored to make it 14-9. But Sparrow hit two of his seven 3-pointers to give his team a 15-14 lead. Perry went into the half with a little momentum, however, as Will Jones hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Panthers a 22-20 lead at the half.
Things continued to look good for the Panthers early in the third quarter. K.J Smith, who averages 18 points per game but was held scoreless in the first half, scored eight quick points to help his team gain its biggest lead of the game at 36-30. But the Syrupmakers struck right back, getting a 3-pointer from Masten and a three-point play by Jeremiah Hill to tie the game at 36 late in the quarter.
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Perry answered that by scoring five of the final seven points to take a 41-38 lead heading into the final quarter.
Perry had chances to pull away but made only 1-of-7 free-throw attempts early in the final quarter and gave up the lead at 42-41 on a Masten basket with four minutes left in the quarter. The Panthers got the lead back at 48-47 on two free throws by Jones with 1:45 left in the game, but Cairo answered as Sparrow drilled a long 3-pointer to give the Syrupmakers a 50-48 lead with 1:24 left. Cairo put the game away by making 6-of-8 free throws in the final minute.
“We had our chances early in the fourth quarter, but the missed free throws obviously hurt us,” said Perry head coach Brett Hardy, whose team was making its third straight playoff appearance. “The hardest part is having seven seniors who have meant so much to this program play their last game.
“I know it will be hard for them to look at this year and call it a successful year, but they won the region and overachieved all year. I am very proud of the effort they gave each and every day.”