By JOHN WILBERT / NEMS Daily Journal
MYRTLE – Boy, is Brad Gray glad to have Moses Kingsley on his team.
The 6-foot-9 – practically 6-10, Kingsley says – 205-pound foreign exchange student from Nigeria had an impact on Saturday night’s Union County basketball tournament boys championship game that went beyond scoring.
The New Albany sophomore blocked six shots, altered several more and made a couple of hustle plays that led to easy baskets in helping the Daily Journal’s third-ranked team (17-2) defeat Myrtle, 85-74.
“I don’t know where to start,” Gray said when describing his big man, who finished with eight points. “He’s like a sponge – he soaks up everything we teach him.
“He’s a good defender, a good shot blocker, good around the basket. He just keeps on getting better every day, but it helps when he has those guys pushing him at practice.”
“Those guys” include seniors Malcolm Spears and Kareem Brown, who led the Bulldogs in scoring Saturday night with 24 and 13 points, respectively.
When Kingsley was on the floor, the Bulldogs jumped out to big leads. New Albany jumped out to a 9-1 lead thanks to two buckets by Kingsley and led 30-14 after the first quarter.
“He’s a presence in the paint,” said Myrtle coach Jonathan Ashley, whose team fell to 12-11 with the loss. “I thought we finally did a good job of attacking his body, because the first half we were trying to fade away from him – and that’s what a shot blocker wants, is his room.
“We then started to try to take it up his nose. He can play and he is a presence, but we finally figured out we can attack him and get into his body.”
The Hawks managed to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 41-36 just before halftime. New Albany, however, regrouped and extended the lead to 44-36 by the intermission.
Myrtle cut New Albany’s 12-point lead in the third quarter to five (60-55) by the first minute into the final period.
With four New Albany players in foul trouble, including Kingsley, Robert Montgomery (team-high 23 points) hit 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull his team within six, at 80-74, with less than a minute remaining.
But it was too little too late for the Hawks.
“We expended a lot of effort to get back into it on two different occasions,” Ashley said of his team. “We didn’t leave anything for the dressing room after it was over with. They gave me everything they had.
“When it got to it, it just wasn’t enough.”
n (G) New Albany 53, Myrtle 45: Simply put: The Lady Bulldogs have the Lady Hawks’ number.
Just eight days after taking the Daily Journal’s top-ranked team to the wire on the road, Myrtle (17-5) gave New Albany (17-2) all it could handle.
The Lady Hawks led Saturday night’s Union County girls championship game by as many as nine points with five minutes to play, but couldn’t hold on.
New Albany outscored Myrtle 21-4 in those final minutes to successfully defend its Union County title and sweep its three-game season series.
Kebrina Lucas (15 points) led New Albany with eight points, all on free throws, in the final period. Jazmine Spears and Micha Washington added 13 and 11, respectively, for the Lady Bulldogs.
Meshay Cox scored a team-high 15 for Myrtle, with teammate Aspriona Gilbert chipping in 14.
n Game summaries, Page 2B