By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
MYRTLE – Union County has had its share of tension on a basketball court over the years.
But Friday, in semifinal action of the North Mississippi Class 1A Boys Tournament, was perhaps uniquely stressful for all Ingomar Falcons.
Ingomar was facing elimination, as well as the possibility that longtime head coach Norris Ashley – who’s pondering retirement – was on the sidelines for his last game if the Falcons lost.
And David Gardner scored 40 points in an effort to help Okolona advance to the state tournament.
Not so fast, responded senior Matt Purvis and the rest of the Falcons.
Purvis poured in 30 points, and the Falcons held off a game group of Chieftains for a thrilling 67-61 victory, and a berth in the state tournament.
“That was probably one of the top three wins, right now,” said Ashley, a 41 year coaching veteran and Mississippi’s all-time winningest coach. “I told my players this was a ‘refuse to lose’ type game, and I saw that in action tonight.
“We were probably fighting with a short stick tonight, but we used that stick well.”
Ingomar and Myrtle play for the 1A North title today at 7 p.m.
On Friday, the Falcons (28-5) were sitting pretty in the second quarter after Purvis and Zack Carnell powered their squad to an 18-0 run that gave Ingomar a 28-14 lead.
Then the 6-foot-6 Gardner found his offensive rhythm in the third quarter, leading the Chieftains (25-6) all the way back to initially knot the contest at 54-54 on a Gardner 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 18 seconds to play in the game. The score was tied as late as 59-59 with 1:59 left on two Gardner free throws.
But a nice pass from Purvis to Carnell gave Ingomar a layup and the lead for good, and the Falcons made their final six free throws to ice the contest.
“Every once in a while, you have a game like this, and it doesn’t get any better,” Ashley said. “Purvis has been unbelievable the last couple of weeks, trying to do anything he can to play another game.”
Purvis’ effort against Okolona followed a 32-point effort Thursday in a quarterfinal contest, with Carnell adding 26 tonight.
“They made better decisions than we did, and Purvis had a nice run in the first half,” Okolona coach Bobby Ford said. “Give credit to my team for coming back, but we just couldn’t quiet get ahead.”
Myrtle 74, Shaw 65
n Moving to a 21-4 lead in the first quarter, Myrtle struggled with Shaw’s quickness the rest of the contest, but prevailed in the end.
Jimel Judon paced the Myrtle (28-5) offense with 25, while Patrick Brown shot in 31 for Shaw (23-4). Myrtle held a 34-27 halftime lead.