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Verbena defeats Thorsby to win title

The Verbena Red Devils came out on fire and never let up en route to a 78-57 victory over Thorsby in the Area 9-2A championship on Feb. 10.

A raucous crowd was on hand, as Verbena hosted the event, while a large contingent of Thorsby fans made the short trip.

Verbena quickly opened up a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter that was punctuated with a 3-pointer from Juwan Tyus that beat the buzzer.

“We expected a good fight tonight, and I liked our intensity in the first half,” Verbena head coach Scott Doss said. “We talked in the locker room [before the game] about playing intense on every possession.”

The Red Devils’ intensity on the boards was evident throughout the game and continually produced second chance opportunities on the offensive end.

“We stressed being ‘beasts on the boards,’” Doss said.

Tyus scored 20 points in the first half, as Verbena extended the lead 33-20 at the halftime break.

Logan Patterson of Thorsby drained a 3-pointer from the left corner to open the scoring in the second half, but Tyus once again ended the third quarter with another long range shot prior to the buzzer that maintained the Red Devils’ 13-point edge.

“I was just feeling it,” Tyus said. “It was my dream to go to the playoffs before I graduated.”

Verbena’s Imani Walls scored 14 of his 16 points in second half, as the Red Devils eventually distanced themselves for good in the fourth quarter.

The biggest difference in the third matchup between both teams was Verbena’s defensive adjustment on Thorsby’s top scorer Christian Fortner.

It seemed like every time Fortner drove to the basket, the Verbena defense collapsed and exhibited active hands to strip the ball or force a tie-up.

“Christian Fortner is an excellent player and has given teams fits all year,” Doss said.

According to Doss, the strategy going into the game was for Hakeem Underwood to handle the responsibility of guarding Fortner.

“Hakeem [Underwood] is getting better with his knee, so his quickness is coming back,” Doss said. “I liked the idea of trying to match up a little more physical.”

Tyus led all scorers with 38 points, while Walls and Underwood joined the double-figure party with 16 and 11 points respectively.

Fortner led Thorsby with 22 points on the night, while Jeremiah Bolling added 10.

Both teams advanced to the playoffs and will play the sub-regionals on Feb. 14. Verbena will host Calhoun, while Thorsby will travel to take on Goshen.

“This was one of our team goals,” Doss said. “Now it’s a stepping stone.”