Avinger's hot shooting is too much for Miller Grove

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 24, 2008 - MOUNT PLEASANT - The Avinger Indians are ranked No. 5 in the state, but the way they shot the ball on Friday, it would be hard for anyone to beat them.

The Indians made a cool 59 percent of their shots from the field in handing the Miller Grove Hornets a 74-45 defeat in the Class A, Div. II area round at Mount Pleasant High School.

Avinger senior Willie Moody made 11-of-18 shots, including five 3-pointers, to score a game-high 30 points, while point guard Eric Gibbs contributed 18 points and four assists.

The Indians hit 20-of-30 from 2-point range and 7-of-16 shots from behind the arc.

"They're very good offensively, which we knew," said MG head coach Gary Billingsley. "We played hard, but they were pretty good. They knocked down their shots."

Miller Grove (23-10), in the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, was led in scoring by sophomore Aaron Baylus and freshman Cayle Watson with eight points and four rebounds each. Freshmen Andrew Steele and Mason Kerby added seven points and five rebounds apiece.

"I think our youth showed a lot tonight," Billingsley said. "I think our kids were intimidated tonight from the get-go."

They were facing a tall, athletic and weathered Avinger team that started four seniors and had racked up a 30-1 record going into the contest. While Miller Grove doesn't have a player over 6-0 on the team, four of Avinger's starters were 6-2 or taller.

The Indians enjoyed a 37-29 advantage on the boards, but it was their shooting that was the difference.

Gibbs, at point guard, got Avinger started early, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and dishing out three assists in the first quarter as the Indians' took as much as a 14-point lead.

Miller Grove scored the final two buckets of the half - on a putback by Yan Heijligers and a baseline drive by Watson - to cut the deficit to 18-8 at the end of the period.

Heijligers, the Hornets' leading scorer during the regular season, was limited to five points and three rebounds.

In the second period, Avinger - and Moody in particular - started pulling away. Moody hit all six of his field goal attempts in the quarter, including three 3-pointers as the Indians' lead grew to 48-21 by halftime.

"Moody killed us," Billingsley said. "I've seen them four times on tape, and this was the best he has been. He couldn't miss."

Moody was helped by some excellent passing. Avinger's Jerome Linwood dished out a game-high seven assists along with eight points, and teammate Corderall Epps had six assists to go with nine rebounds and seven points.

Miller Grove was unable to get back in the game in the third period because the Hornets missed their first 11 attempts from the field. When Baylus scored on a cutter off a Tim Heijligers' assist with 2:20 to play in the period, Avinger had already increased the lead to 63-26.

The Hornets made a run in the fourth quarter, helped out by six points from Watson, as they forced Avinger into seven of their 18 turnovers. Miller Grove also had 18 turnovers that Avinger turned into 20 points.

Avinger advances to face Tenaha in the regional quarterfinals next week.

NOTES: Last week, Miller Grove won its first playoff game in 15 years when it defeated Waxahachie Cornerstone in bi-district. ... MG seniors Kenny Robbins, Steven Mayfield and Yan Heijligers played their final game.

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