Madison East beats Madison La Follette to win Big Eight boys basketball title
With a towel loosely hanging off his head and his arms draped around a pair of assistant coaches leading him off the floor, a hobbled Keonte Jones only had one thing on his mind.
Get back in the game.
The Madison East junior guard didn’t have much time. The Purgolders, who trailed host Madison La Follette by eight points after Jones went down hard on an already padded-up knee, had just 10 minutes, 29 seconds to right the ship and deliver the school’s first outright Big Eight Conference title in decades.
Not only did Jones come back to the bench five minutes later, he took over down the stretch to lead East to a 73-66 victory over the Lancers.
While his legs were ailing, his shoulders did the work as he scored seven of his game-high 21 points in the final 2:20 to help East, ranked second in the state, to a 19-1 overall record and 15-1 mark in the Big Eight.
There’s no sharing this conference title. It belongs to the Purgolders, as La Follette’s records fell to 14-5, 11-4.
“I know it’s also good for myself to be healthy for the playoffs, but this is a big game for my team and the school,” Jones said. “I wanted to get back out there and take control.”
After Anthony Washington’s runner with just over 3 minutes to play gave the Purgolders their first lead of the second half, La Follette’s Donneil Gray quickly tied things at 62.
Jones answered with seven consecutive points to send the visitors’ side into a frenzy.
His highlight was something he had cooked up all night — even as he sat in the locker room, waiting for the trainers to give him the OK.
Up by a point with 1:57 left and with the ball at the top of the key, Jones used a hesitation move where he faked right and finished with his left. He got the basket and a foul to put East up by four.
“I set the move up,” he said. “They were stopping the right all game, so I went back left.”
After his final basket of the night put East up by six, he barely made it back to the bench because his leg was so sore.
But the celebration that ensued made it worth it.
“Very special,” Jones said. “It’s especially big for my coach (Matt Miota). I know it’s a big one for him.”
While Miota watched his junior wing’s special performance unfold, he also saw his team step up on defense — minus a couple of starters to begin with — to erase a seven-point halftime deficit.
Steals and transition pushed the Purgolders over the top.
“Our guys were ready and they didn’t flinch,” Miota said. “Especially on the defensive end. That’s what turned the tide. We just turned up the intensity, really.”
Washington was the benefit of those defensive stops as his 18 points all seemed to come near the rim off transition.
La Follette showed once again it can play with the state’s best. The Lancers suffocated the Purgolders with a stifling man-to-man in the first half, holding high-scoring East to 27 points.
“I thought we bought in,” La Follette coach Curtrel Robinson said. “We executed our game plan, as far as what we were trying to do in terms of stopping their offense. And then it was kind of fool’s gold, being up like that.
“They elevated their game on D, and that bothered us offensively and kind of affected us on defense where we weren’t playing as tough as we could.”
Troy Reeves led a balanced La Follette attack with 13 points.
East, ranked second in the latest state polls, has plenty ahead of it in what has been already a special season.
It made sure to stop and appreciate what was accomplished on Friday night, one those close to the program won’t forget for a long time.
“Tonight we won the conference championship outright for the first time in I think over 25 years,” Miota said. “To do it in this atmosphere in this rivalry, the way we were done, a true testament to our guys’ toughness and character.”
Madison East 27 46 — 73
Madison La Follette 34 32 — 66
MADISON EAST — Jones 6 9-11 21, Davis 0 2-2 2, Washington 8 2-8 18, McKinley 1 2-6 4, Justice 4 0-2 9, Walsvick 3 0-0 6, McIntosh 2 3-4 8, Thompson 2 1-1 5. Totals 26 19-34 73.
MADISON LA FOLLETTE — Do. Gray 4 1-2 9, Ingram 2 3-6 7, Reeves Jr. 3 7-8 13, Probst 3 4-6 12, Stewart 2 0-0 5, De. Gray 5 1-2 12, DaGray 2 0-1 5, Prather 1 1-2 3. Totals 22 17-27 66.
3-point goals — ME 2 (Justice 1, McIntosh 1), ML 5 (Probst 2, Stewart 1, DeGray 1, DaGray 1). Total fouls — ME 18, ML 26. Fouled out — Prather.