By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
JACKSON – Aberdeen couldn’t find the shot it needed Saturday in the MHSAA Class 3A state semifinals.
Unable to find it late, the Bulldogs left the Mississippi Coliseum with a 62-58 loss against Kemper County.
Kemper (27-8) will now face 2011 champion Booneville Thursday at 8:30 p.m. for the championship.
Aberdeen forced 30 turnovers, 24 in the second half, but the Bulldogs failed to convert enough.
“We applied the pressure and forced them to turn the ball over,” Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said. “Just felt like we didn’t put the ball in the hole at the right time.”
Aberdeen (27-7) had its best chance to tie the game for the first time when Jeffery Riddle forced a turnover on an inbounds with 16.4 seconds left. Sed Fair had the ball knocked out of bounds driving, then missed a jumper with 8.7 seconds left.
In front of an estimated 3,500, McDonald’s All-American Devonta Pollard grabbed the board and hit the last point of his 22 to seal it. Pollard also had 14 rebounds.
Aberdeen couldn’t get closer than a point twice after its press led the way back from a 39-27 hole.
In the final minute, there was a missed layup off a steal and a block by Brandon Hodges on Pollard that Pollard got back and extended the lead to four.
Kemper point man Nick Giles hit 5 of 6 from the line in the final 3 minutes and 7 of 8 in the game en route to 20 points.
“We tried to work on their press because we knew if the game was close, it would come down to (seniors Giles and Pollard) and how they controlled the ball,” Kemper coach Kelvin Young said.
The deficit started in the first quarter as Kemper took advantage of a missed Aberdeen dunk and consecutive turnovers with Giles’ 3-pointer for a 13-9 lead.
Aberdeen’s Elliot Johnson scored four points, 19 below his average. He had nine boards but fouled out with 6:14 left. Fair led the Bulldogs with 25. Jakeese Walker had 13. Aberdeen was 3 of 14 from behind the arc.
“There were times we should have went to him but we didn’t,” Hazzle said of Johnson. “Early in the game, we weren’t really understanding what it took.”