North Half Championship recap

Lady Bulldogs win second straight North Half title

For the second year in a row, it took overtime for the Lady Bulldogs to claim the North Half Championship, as they earned the 46-42 win over Pontotoc on Saturday.

Down 38-35 with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Paris Sanders hit an 18-foot shot to send the game to the extra period, where New Albany outscored the Lady Warriors, 8-4 to take the championship. Going into the match-up, head coach John Stroud was worried how his team would respond after their emotional win over Lafayette Friday night.

“Its hard to play a team four times because they know us pretty well. Mentally, I’m worried about how we will play in this atmosphere. Coming off of a big knockoff win of Lafayette, I fear a let down.”

Pontotoc held the ball for a majority of the first half, including a straight seven minutes and 50 seconds in the second quarter. Despite the stagnant play, New Albany held the 15-13 lead at the half.

In the overtime period, Porche White helped seal the win with her free throws in the final seconds. Kebrina Lucas led the Lady Bulldogs with 14 points, followed by 10 points from Micha Washington.

“Any time you play at Pontotoc, it’s going to be a loud atmosphere and people are into the game, so it’s just a good division rivalry that we have developed,” NAHS assistant coach Alicia Pickens said after the win. “I think the girls did a good job of keeping their heads on straight. We missed some shots and got a little flustered because they were playing physical. It was big for us having the seniors out there to help maintain focus and keep us grounded.”

New Albany will next play South Jones on Monday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. in Jackson.

Lions come from behind to defeat Bulldogs

The Bulldogs’ quest for a North Half Championship fell short with Rosa Fort erasing an eight-point deficit in the second half to defeat New Albany, 65-58, Saturday night.

New Albany held a two-point advantage, 39-37, at the end of the third quarter, and the momentum shifted to Rosa Fort, as Billy Jackson and Bernardrick McKinney each tied the game in the fourth and McKinney gave the Lions their first lead at 45-43. From that point, the Lions would go on a 10-4 run to go ahead 55-47 late in the game, and Collins helped seal the win with his 10 fourth quarter points.

“We played pretty well in the first half, but in the second, they came out and took it to us,” NAHS head coach Brad Gray said. “We didn’t guard them as well as we did in the first half, especially in the post. They started feeding the post and taking it to us and they outplayed us in the second half.”

New Albany used the outside shot to take a 15-8 first quarter lead, nine points coming off three-pointers by Kareem Brown, Eric Chaney and Tadarious Coburn.

Malcolm Spears made it a 10-point game with his triple to open the second quarter. The Lions used an 8-0 run to tie the game at 21 later in the frame off a shot by Collins, but Coburn gave New Albany the two-point edge, 23-21 at the half.

Coburn and Brown each connected on their second triples in the game to open the third quarter and give New Albany the eight-point lead, 29-21 before the Lions took started their comeback.

Coburn led all scorers with 24 points and Collins was one of three Lions in double figures, scoring 22 points. McKinney finished with 15 points and Jackson ended with 11 points.

Outscored 44-35 in the second half, Gray noted his team’s change on offense and their decrease in intensity.

“We started getting out of sync, taking bad shots and quit being aggressive on offense,” he said. “They did a good job of blocking us out and keeping us off of the offensive boards. They’re a good team; they outplayed us and deserved to win.”

Next for the Bulldogs is South Half Champion St. Stanislaus in the semifinals of the State Tournament. For Gray, this will be his fourth trip to Jackson, where he won a championship as a player at Senatobia in 1996 and coached Hickory Flat at State in 2005.

“At this point in the season, it doesn’t matter who you play,” he said. “For us now it’s all about finding out who we’re playing and begin preparing for them so we can go down there and see what we can do.”

The Bulldogs and Rock-a-Chaws will face-off at 8 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28 at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.

Other North Half Championship scores

1A- Myrtle 68 Drew 63- Hawks will face Dexter on Friday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.

 For a complete recap of the Hawks’ North Half Championship run, see Wednesday’s New Albany Gazette    

Shenequa Simpson contributed with information from the Lady Bulldogs' win at Pontotoc