by Will Gilbert
Vehicles overflowed from the main parking lot up the hill to the school and beyond as Shirley fans packed Glenn Hackett Fieldhouse Friday night to catch the final home game for eight seniors that produced over 60 wins in their illustrious high school career. The district champion Blue Devils gave their faithful a show, crushing Calico Rock 74-28 while improving to 27-9 entering this week’s 1A-2 South Conference tournament.
Seniors Jed Privitt, Joe Owen, Easton Freeman and Sam Spurlin combined for 49 points in less than three quarters of play for Shirley, which led 22-7 after the first quarter, 36-18 at halftime and 62-25 entering the fourth quarter.
The visiting Pirates (16-16) hung around in the opening minutes before Privitt recorded consecutive baskets in the paint, Spurlin canned a pair of free throws and power forward Mike Fuller used a spin move to get free for a bucket, plus the foul. Fuller converted from the line to complete the three-point play, pushing the Blue Devils’ lead to 12-5.
Late in the first quarter Shirley used its full-court pressure to take complete command as Freeman came up with a steal and found Fuller, who finished in heavy traffic. Privitt added two rebound baskets sandwiched around a strong baseline drive by Fuller, stretching Shirley’s lead to 15.
Owen poured in nine points in just over two minutes to start the second quarter. After scoring inside off an assist from Privitt, the senior guard sank two free throws then nailed a three. Owen added two more foul shots and he later notched a putback to make it 11 points in the period while boosting the Blue Devils’ lead to 33-14.
Privitt’s corner three off an assist from Owen gave Shirley an 18-point halftime lead and the Blue Devils came out of the locker room on fire, outscoring Calico Rock 26-7 in the third quarter behind Privitt, who hit a floater, drilled a 19-foot jumper and drove baseline for a basket.
Fuller added a bucket in the paint off an assist from Owen and Spurlin scored inside off a dime from Privitt, then Freeman knocked down a corner three off another assist from Privitt, who moments later turned a steal into a basket.
Shirley pushed its lead past 30 when Owen swiped a steal near mid-court and drove to the basket for a layup while absorbing contact from behind. Owen cashed in from the charity stripe to make it 54-23 with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter.
Privitt, Shirley’s powerful senior forward who has led the team in scoring the past three years, recorded a rebound basket for his final two points at Glenn Hackett Fieldhouse. After Privitt, Owen, Freeman and Spurlin left the floor to a standing ovation, Fuller – the Blue Devils only starter that will return next season – hit two free throws and turned an offensive rebound into a basket to close out the period.
Reserves Luke Lucas, Jaret Bradley and John York each buried a three in the fourth quarter as Shirley closed out its 27th victory of the season.
Privitt led all scorers with 21 points and Owen added 16. Fuller followed with 13, Freeman had eight, Lucas scored five and Spurlin registered four.
Senior forward Daniel Strempke, who played a pivotal role for the Blue Devils, is out with a leg injury requiring crutches. He was honored along with his seven senior classmates prior to opening tip. Clay Bullard, Austin Phillips and Sean Widener also competed in their final home game.
The Blue Devils are set to face the West Side-Midland winner at 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals of the conference tournament in Greers Ferry. A win would place Shirley in Saturday’s championship game at 6:30 p.m.