Aberdeen blasts West Point in second half of home-opener

ABERDEEN – An Aberdeen team full of senior leadership was determined not to drop its home-opener against West Point.

Behind a solid night from the free-throw line and double-digit performances from four starters, the Bulldogs rode a strong second half for an 88-66 win over the Green Wave.

Aberdeen made 86 percent of its free-throw attempts, including 9 of 13 from senior Jakeese Walker, who finished with 17 points, and worked to keep West Point off the line in the second half.

Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
Rico Haughton looks for an open teammate to pass to during Friday’s 88-66 win over West Point. Haughton led the Bulldogs with 21 points, including five 3-pointers.

“We knew we had to move our feet and quit fouling. That’s what kept them in the game in the first half, and we said we were going to stop their fast breaks,” Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said. “That meant we had to be patient on offense and get the ball where we wanted it and get to our defensive position.”

West Point tied it up at 20 near the end of the first quarter after Aberdeen took an early lead, but Rico Haughton knocked down his second three-pointer of the game and Aaron McMillian added a basket to put the Bulldogs up 25-20 after the first.

Haughton was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 21 points, including five shots hit from beyond the arc.

Aberdeen would lead by as many as eight near the end of the half before A.J. Jones knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 43-37 going into the break. West Point made 16 of its 21 free shots in the first half before only going to the line six times in the second half.

The closest the Green Wave would get in the second half would be within one after they opened up the third with a pair of free throws and two-point shots from Juan Davis. Aberdeen responded with a quick 6-0 run with scores from Brandon Hodges, Walker and Tomyze Buchanan.

“Our guys did a great job in the second half of attacking and breaking the two-three zone down. When they went man, we capitalized there as well,” Hazzle said. “It was just a great effort tonight from all our guys. Everyone played, and we just have to continue to get better, work hard and stayed focused.”

Aberdeen would get sent to the line 19 times in the second half and ended the game making 27 of 34 free-throw attempts.

In addition to Haughton and Walker, Nick Sims scored 13 points and Buchanan finished with 10 to also notch double-digit performances.

Senior point guard Aaron McMillian had a big night on defense with 9 rebounds, four steals and two blocks and also notched 7 assists. The Bulldogs finished with a 14 takeaways in the win.

Hazzle said he’s been looking for team chemistry with the early season tests the Bulldogs have had so far and that he’s impressed with the way his team has responded so far.

“My philosophy is this: we don’t duck and dodge. We get beat, and we just have to learn from it,” Hazzle said. “It just so happens that the ball bounced our way tonight. Our kids have great attitudes, and they’re willing to listen to what we have to say. We’re very proud of them so far this season.”