ROSSVILLE - A stomach bug apparently couldn't slow down Jalen Smith on Tuesday night, and neither could the LaFayette Ramblers.
Ridgeland's quick-as-a-hiccup junior point guard withstood the pain and discomfort long enough to score 22 of his game-high 27 points in the second half in a 58-48 home win over their Walker County rivals.
Smith also dished out four of his six assists in the final two quarters and came through with three steals as his lockdown defense helped inspire a big second-half effort by the Panthers.
"I'm sick with the stomach flu right now, but my team needed a win," Smith said quietly after the game. "Showing that your tired is just a sign of weakness, so you just have to play through it. I play for myself and my teammates, so I just had to do whatever I needed to do to help us get the win."
"He did a great job," Ridgeland head coach David Stoker said. "He made great decisions with the ball, knowing when to push it, and when to give it up, plus he played great heads-up defense on (LaFayette swing man Tyler) Shropshire, who's a great player. To be as sick as he is and play as hard as he did, I have no idea how he did it."
Shropshire had eight first-quarter points, including a pair of three-pointers, as the Ramblers (10-12, 2-6) overcame an early 7-0 deficit with an 18-3 run. Then in the second quarter, after the Panthers (7-13, 2-6) got back within two at 20-18, Patrick Simmons and Lance Estus connected from behind the arc in a 9-0 run that helped the Ramblers forge a 31-23 lead at intermission.
But thanks in large part to the exploits of Smith, the second half would be a much different story.
He had 11 of Ridgeland's 17 points in the period, including a pair of three-pointers, and assisted on two more treys in the quarter as the Panthers regained a 40-36 lead.
Smith would assist on the first basket of the fourth quarter before scoring eight consecutive points for the Black-and-White. With just under 4:30 remaining, he dazzled the crowd by outleaping three taller players for an athletic defensive rebound before beating everyone down court for a lay-up that gave his team a double-digit lead for good.
Ridgeland's team defense was the other big story of the second half as LaFayette managed just five points in the third quarter, and four points in the first 6:15 of the fourth.
"Give Ridgeland credit," said LaFayette head coach Tommy Swanson. "They came out (in the second half) and turned up the defensive pressure and we didn't respond. They got us out of sync and we never recovered."
Swanson added that his team did not have an answer for Smith in the second half.
"Jalen is a very good player, and we were hoping he wouldn't start hitting those outside shots," he added. "But he did, and when that happens, what can you do? If you get up on him, he goes right by you, and if you back up, he buries the three-pointer. He made his shots so give him credit."
Gannon Harris hed 15 points and 12 rebounds in the victory, while Justin Bolton gave the Panthers (7-13, 2-6) a spark off the bench with three steals and a big three-pointer that helped give his team the momentum in the third quarter.
"Bolton plays hard every second in the game," Stoker added. "He plays great on-the-ball defense, and made a shot for us too tonight."
Shropshire and Estus each had 12 points and nine rebounds for LaFayette. Stefan Edmondson added nine points and seven rebounds, while Simmons finished with eight points.
Ridgeland will host Heritage on Friday night, starting at 7 p.m., while LaFayette will return home that night to face Dalton.