By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW SITE – Morgan Pearson’s newfound freedom paid off for her and her New Site teammates on Saturday night.
Pearson, who was strictly a post player and wasn’t really allowed out on the wing last season for Belmont High, repeatedly drove the floor and to the rack to score a game-high 27 points to lead New Site to their second consecutive MHSAA Division 1-2A Basketball Tournament championship thanks to Saturday’s 62-58 win over Ashland.
With the victory, the 10th-ranked Lady Royals (22-4) will play host to West Lowndes at 7 p.m. Monday in a Class 2A North Tournament play-in game.
“He told us all to be aggressive,” the junior transfer said of her coach Byron Sparks’ orders. “We needed to take it to the basket and draw fouls.”
With the Lady Royals falling behind 10-0 to start the game and 18-6 later on in the opening quarter, Pearson would help get New Site back into the game.
She scored nine of her 13 first-half points in the second quarter as the Lady Royals outscored the Lady Blue Devils 16-8 in the period to pull even at 28-all by halftime.
“We were trying to change up defenses every couple of possessions, trying to throw them off a little bit,” Sparks said, “but they shot the ball really well.”
Ashland (10-16) went cold in the third quarter while New Site was starting to get some easy looks inside the paint. Pearson tallied six, as did Shelby Stricklen (12 points on the night), and Christy Clark, who scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half, added five as New Site outscored Ashland 19-11 in the period.
Ashland went to a box-and-1 with a little bit of a man-to-man thrown in and was subsequently able to outscore New Site 21-17 in the fourth quarter.
In the final 10 seconds, the Lady Blue Devils had an opportunity to tie the game or go ahead, but Raquetta Allen’s shot from the top of the key missed and Pearson (6 of 7 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter) then extended the Lady Royals’ lead to 62-58 with a pair of free throws.
Khadjah Preston and Alontra Tucker each scored a game-high 14 for Ashland, while Trenise Hampton added 12.
n (B) Baldwyn 79, Ashland 65: The Bearcats proved why they’re the sixth-ranked team in the Daily Journal’s coverage area with a championship game win over the Blue Devils.
Reggie Patterson followed up his 42-point semifinals performance the night before against East Union with a game-high 33 on Saturday night.
Ian Burress (16) and Dee Gates (14) also reached double figures for the Bearcats (25-4), who will host East Webster in a 2A North play-in game on Tuesday night. The Blue Devils had four players reach double figures – Darius Dukes (17), Ted Parker (13), Jeremy Williams (13) and Moreno Glover (12).
n (G) Walnut 53, Baldwyn 51: The Lady Wildcats fell behind eight points in the third quarter, but were still able to outscore the Lady Bearcats 36-28 in the final two quarters to win the consolation game.
n (B) Hickory Flat 72, East Union 39: The Rebels trailed 7-6 after the first quarter before outscoring the Urchins 66-32 the rest of the way.