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LELAND—Coach Mark Jones celebrated this victory the most appropriate way he could.
Ten days after the funeral of his brother Kyle, Jones coached the West Brunswick girls’ basketball team to a 48-41 overtime victory against North Brunswick.
The victory Jan. 29 ended an 11-game losing streak and was West’s first since Dec. 4. The victory also was West’s first this season in the conference.
Kyle Jones, a Brunswick County sheriff’s detective, died unexpectedly Jan. 14. He was 41. The game at North was the first Mark Jones has coached since then. Seconds after the game ended, Jones knelt on the court in front of the West bench and cried.
“It’s been the worst two weeks of my life,” Jones said. “It’s been hard on my mom and Kyle’s wife, Lisa, and (their daughter) Ryde—she’s 7.
“This one was for my brother. I’m not trying to be dramatic. But I told myself coming into tonight I was going to coach the best game I could and try to do the best I could for him tonight—and for these girls.”
West is 1-6 in the conference, 3-12 overall.
“To be honest with you, we should have won about four or five games this year if we had made free throws,” Jones said. “Everybody’s kind of counted us out. We haven’t gotten a lot of respect from people. But these girls have stuck together.
“These girls played with a lot of heart tonight. I’m so appreciative of the way they played. I love them. Love them. Love them. I’d do anything in the world for them. And tonight, what they gave me and my mother and my sister-in-law and my little niece was a great present. This is something bigger than basketball—just to give us some good feelings for a little while is great.”
North (2-5 in the conference, 4-15) played almost the entire game without 5-foot-8 junior forward Tiye Cheatham, who suffered a leg injury 75 seconds into the first quarter. The injury left the young North team—one senior—with three bench players.
The Scorpions trailed 16-9 after the first quarter and were held to two points in the third quarter but forced overtime when senior Katrina Brown made a three-point play that tied the score 39-39 with 43.8 seconds left.
In overtime, baskets by West junior Dazia Gause and North sophomore Gracan Deal tied the score, but West outscored the Scorpions 7-0 the rest of the game.
A steal by sophomore guard Yana Bland led to a free throw by senior guard Kianna Pigott. Another steal by Bland led to her making one of two free throws. In the key moment of the overtime, senior Allison Brown grabbed the rebound of the missed free throw and scored, putting the Trojans ahead 45-41 with 1:38 left. Another North turnover led to a layup by Bre Small.
West’s final basket was a free throw by Pigott. Pigott had her best free-throw game of the season. In regulation, she made five of seven. She finished with nine points.
“I was really proud of Kianna and her senior leadership tonight,” Jones said.
West’s post players scored 29 of West’s 48 points: Gause scored 12 points, Brown 10 and sophomore Leilani Emile seven.
“We got some great post play tonight,” Jones said.
Small scored seven points and Bland three.
“Kianna, Yana and Bre did a great job of holding on to the ball, making some good decisions, making some good passes,” Jones said.
For North, Brown scored 21 points, Deal eight, Keaton and Ramsey five and LaTonya Keaton two.
The Scorpions missed 14 free throws. West made 10 of 15 free throws, its best percentage of the season.
“When we went out in overtime,” Jones said, “we said, ‘We deserve it.’ It’s so nice to win at North Brunswick. I don’t when was the last time West has beaten North Brunswick at North Brunswick.”
Jones said he was appreciative of North coach Travis Fortune’s manner after the game.
“He said he was proud of us,” Jones said.
After Jones entered the victorious West locker room, the players told him the victory was for his brother.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me and our family,” Jones said. “We appreciate all the love everybody at West Brunswick, the community, law enforcement, the rescue squad, fire department have given our family. It’s been something of a shock.
“My brother loved basketball. He was all-conference in basketball. I know (tonight) he was happy.”