By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
STARKVILLE – Aberdeen led for more than 31 minutes only to see its lead fall in the final minute of an 80-73 loss against Memphis East in the Slam Dunk at The Hump on Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
Matthew Butler’s 3-pointer with 55 seconds play gave the Mustangs a 75-73 lead after being behind as many as 11 points in the third quarter.
Aberdeen had trouble against East’s full-court pressure and lost a pair of key turnovers in the final seconds.
“Even though we turned it over until that point, I thought we still could have won the game,” said Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle, out of retirement for his 25th season. “So many things happened that are uncharacteristic of a championship team.”
Memphis East, ranked No. 3 in the Commercial Appeal’s city rankings, got 25 points from Butler and 19 from Nick King, ESPN’s No. 12-ranked junior in the nation. Kent State-commit Earvin Morris had 10.
Junior Aberdeen guard Jakeese Walker made what would have been a tying driving lay-in and ensuing free throw but was called for a charge instead.
A two-plus-one and technical foul later, East improved to 8-1 and Aberdeen fell to 8-3.
The Bulldogs face a quick turnaround with an 8:30 p.m. game against Olive Branch tonight at Northeast in the Kiwanis Christmas Classic and an 8:30 p.m. game against 3A champion Booneville in the tournament at Booneville Friday.
“We lost on our inexperience to win the game down the stretch,” Hazzle said. “We did a lot of things right, going in to our bigs and our bigs were finishing. In the last minutes, we said ‘Abandon the jumpshot.’ Before I can turn around, we’ve shot a ball up and they’re running a fast break.”
Aberdeen jumped out to a hot start, leading by as many as 13 in the first half, 29-16 on Brandon Hodges’ basket inside. Senior point guard Shedrick Fair scored the first seven points of the game, the first two on two technical foul free throws after an East player dunked in warm-ups.
There were four technicals called, three on East.
“I told my guys to keep playing. They could have easily folded but they kept playing the full 32 minutes,” said East coach Sam Bachelor.
Fair had 25 points for Aberdeen. Elliot Johnson had 15 and 14 boards, Hodges 14 and 10 rebounds and Walker 12 points.