By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
BOONEVILLE – Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle promised a stronger finish after Wednesday night’s 80-73 loss against Memphis East in Starkville.
He had to have it and got it from the free-throw line from his Bulldogs Thursday in a 74-69 overtime win against Class 6A Olive Branch at Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Bonner Arnold Coliseum.
“Just simply a great job from our guys,” Hazzle said. “I told them in the dressing room last night the measure of a champion is that if you get knocked down, you’re going to get up.”
The Bulldogs (9-3) will have to get back up again quickly, tonight facing defending Class 3A champion Booneville at Booneville at 8:30 p.m.
Jakeese Walker drove the lane for a 65-63 lead in overtime. The 3A Bulldogs then hit four straight free throws from Jeffery Riddle and Elliot Johnson.
Olive Branch hit only two of its four free throws in overtime. Walker’s four straight free throws in the final 34.6 sealed the win.
“We know Booneville is the defending 3A state champion and we respect that,” Hazzle said. “We’re just going to come in their house and play good, sound fundamental basketball.”
Walker and Shedrick Fair had 17 points each for Aberdeen. Johnson added 11. D’Arthur Cowan led Olive Branch with 16. Justin McClellon had 12.
Tied at 32 at the half and trailing the Conquistadors 53-49 after three quarters, Johnson broke a 53-all tie with a driving lay-in. He missed the ensuing free throw but put his team ahead.
Jamarcus Williamson hit two free throws with 1:13 to play to pull the Quistors within 63-61. After a travel, Cowan drove the lane and tied the game.
It was nip-and-tuck in the second half. A 10-minute stoppage of time opened the fourth quarter with a scorebook discrepancy.
Runs marked the first half. Aberdeen rattled off a 24-7 run to take a 30-19 lead on Fair’s spin and bucket in the lane.
Olive Branch scored the next 13 to take a 32-30 lead on John Cornish’s 3-pointer. Fair tied it off a steal and lay-in just before the first half buzzer.
McClellon missed a pair of free throws with 9.4 seconds left but Aberdeen turned it back over on a travel. The Bulldogs stole the inbounds pass as time expired in regulation.