RICHMOND (WAVY) – The celebration started long before the clock hit all zeros and the final buzzer sounded.
Players hugged eachother on the court, coach James Pope Jr. began embracing his players, and the sea of blue and yellow that flooded the Siegel Center in Richmond could only jump and shout in victory, as the Surry County boys basketball team defeated Eastside for its first state championship since 2005.
“It still feels unreal to me right now. I just seems like a blur,” said Pope, who’s team is only the second in school history to have brought back a title, and is the first since the memorable group led by the late coach Joe Ellis.
“I just know now, coach Ellis is just smling down. He’s so happy,” said Doris Ellis, the widow of coach Ellis, who passed away from inoperable cancer only two months after guiding the Cougars to that titel 14 years ago.
Doris made the trip and embraced all the players during the post-game frenzy.
Monte Pope and Slade Zhamare’ each scored 14 points for the Cougars. Slade also grabbed 11 rebounds. QuanDriel Palmer led the team with 16 points. Slade his a three-pointer to tie the game at 26 only seconds before halftime.
The game saw 15 lead changes and 9 ties before the Cougars finally pulled away in the fourth quarter.
In the earlier championship game, the Surry County Lady Cougars fell short of their first title since 2010, losing to Parry McCluer 58-45.
McCluer won its third straight Class 1 state title.
Junior Bre’cha Byrd led the Cougars with 17 points.
While the earlier parts of the game were competitive, McCluer led by 11 at halftime and by as many as 15 in the game.
Surry County never got closer than six in the fourth quarter. “Honestly, I”m just proud of everyone, all my teammates,” said Byrd. “I feel like they gave everything they got, and that’s all that matters.”