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Column: Saints commit cardinal sins on basketball court

by Mark Humphrey | January 18, 2023 at 10:55 a.m.

In the basketball world, a backpedaling Saint failing to stop dribble progression downcourt translates into one of the cardinal sins on the hardwood.

Those needing someone to testify to that fact, need look no further than a chagrined Shiloh Christian boys basketball coach Chuck Davis, after Farmington junior Jaxon Berry bolted the length of the floor and threw down a rim-rocking slam-dunk that threatened to rip the halo off the Saints' goal.

Berry seized a loose ball just below the free-throw line while defending the left wing. In a matter of seconds he was off to the races, accelerating through Shiloh Christian's transition defense across half-court and around a backpedaling Bodie Neal, the last Saint with a chance to defend on the play. At least Neal stuck out a hand in an attempt to slow Berry down, while his teammates might need to confess playing the "Blue Bayou defense." All they could do was look at each other and yell, "He blew by you, man."

"I just saw a 1-on-1 and I got past them on the outside, then I saw them not being anywhere near me and I just took off," Berry said. "It feels good. Any time I get a chance and a clear shot at the rim I just go for the dunk."

Berry's gravity-defying one-handed stuff increased Farmington's lead to 44-12 midway through the second quarter and things never got any better for Shiloh Christian (2-16, 1-4 4A-1) with the Cardinals recording a 96-29 win behind 20 points apiece from Layne Taylor and Sam Wells plus Berry's 18 points and 8 rebounds to improve to 21-0 overall and 5-0 in 4A-1 Conference play.

Layne Taylor also had five rebounds and six assists while Wells added six rebounds. Wells was named the Cardinal "Key Performer" while Layne Taylor shared the "TNT" award with Maddox Mahan.

Caleb Blakely was back in the lineup coming off an injury and the Saints were no more glad to see the 6-feet-2 senior grab eight rebounds than the chief priests and Pharisees indignant with Roman guards reporting the bodily resurrection of Jesus. They cunningly figured out how to silence these witnesses by bribing them to say they had fallen asleep on the job and Jesus' disciples stole his body away during the night, knowing that falling asleep on guard duty meant execution for dereliction of duty in the Roman hierarchy.

The chief priests sold the Roman guards on the deal by promising to cover for them in the event of an official inquiry by Pontius Pilate, a promise they never intended to keep.

That form of government corrupted by undue influence of religious zealots prompted our Founding Fathers to set the establishment clause as a cornerstone of the United States Constitution, denying Congress or anybody else an ability to establish a state religion or prohibit the free exercise of religion in general.

"We're excited about Caleb. Josh Blakely [his twin brother] was back Tuesday [Jan. 17] for Huntsville so we're excited to get those guys back. We really haven't had a full roster in awhile so we're really excited to have our full roster back," said Farmington coach Johnny Taylor.

Farmington senior Kaden Hughes contributed six points, seven rebounds and an assist that set up another Berry skywalk 1:34 earlier as the rim on that end of the court took a hammering from the Cardinal 6-feet-4 forward.

Four Saints stood betwixt Hughes and the goal at the far end when he came into possession of the basketball in front of the rim Farmington defended. Hughes pushed the ball up. No one challenged him until he reached the top-of-the-key at the other end. By that time he'd thrown a perfectly-executed bounce pass to Berry, who measured his steps on the left wing, gathered in the ball and slammed it home as a hard-charging Neal crashed into the wall, too late to prevent Farmington's slamma jamma highlight.

"It was a good pass and I was open. I just went up for a dunk because I had a clear chance," Berry said.

To his credit, Neal probably ran the farthest and was closer to Berry than any other defender when the slam occurred.

Berry compiled the basketball version of a hat-trick with a third throwdown at the end of the first half, which might be best described in his own words, "One of my teammates stole the ball. I just picked it up. I ran to the outside. They did try to reach for it. I pushed it to the right, then I just took off and slammed it," Berry said. "The crowd was energized. I just like putting on a show."

Berry was honored as Farmington's "Lockdown Defender" while Hughes and Hunter Reaves (6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) shared "The Game Honors Toughness" shovel honors for Farmington.

Farmington began the week ranked No. 2 in Class 4A and No. 10 in the boys basketball overall poll by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Farmington's perimeter defense improved tremendously from November in which Shiloh Christian hit 11 total 3-pointers in a nonconference boys basketball game on the Oklahoma City Thunder's professional court.

The Cardinals won the Nov. 22, 2022, contest, 94-44, and proved even more stingy on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in 4A-1 Conference play by beating the Saints, 96-29, on their home court at Springdale. In November four different Saints made multiple threes with all but a trio of their 14 field goals coming from beyond the arc. Bodie didn't appear in that game. He was still playing football. Duke Bowman (5), Walker Shankle (3), Connor Riggins (2) and Ben Holler combined for one short of a dozen triples.

This go-around Neal made the only 3-pointer for the Saints. Farmington led 26-9 at the end of the first quarter, 52-17 at halftime and 79-21 at the end of the third quarter.

Unlike a report published elsewhere last Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, as of this writing the Cardinals remain undefeated.

Mark Humphrey is a sports writer for the Washington County Enterprise-Leader. The opinions are the author's own.

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