By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Norris Ashley has learned a lot in his 41 years of coaching high school basketball.
For instance, after watching his Ingomar Falcons play so poorly in the first half of Thursday’s 66-39 loss to West Bolivar in the opening round of the MHSAA Grand Slam, he knew his Class 1A state champions were in trouble.
Ingomar committed 14 turnovers, was 0 for 7 on 3-pointers and was 4 for 8 from the free-throw line in the first half.
“That took us out of the driver’s seat and put us in the trunk,” said Ashley, 62, who is expected to announce his retirement in the coming weeks. “I thought we were prepared, but it was obvious we weren’t mentally prepared.”
The normally offensive-minded Falcons (30-7) connected on just 10 of 38 field-goal attempts (26 percent), five in each half.
“We are on a fine line. We’ve got to do everything just-so,” Ashley said. “We’ve got to hit our free throws, hit our 3s, work inside. If we don’t do those things right, things can go bad real quick … and they went bad real quick.”
West Bolivar (26-8), the 2A state champion, will play 6A state champion Starkville (29-2) at 2:30 p.m. today in the semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum.
The Eagles were led by slashing guard Davion King, who scored a game-high 20 points, most off feeds from point guard Cord Walker, who finished with 13 points.
Millaun Brown, a 6-foot-6 forward, added 17 for the winners.
The Falcons’ shooting woes were evident from 3-point land, where they were just 1 of 17. Clay Kidd, a senior guard, hit that one with 4 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cut West Bolivar’s lead to 29-22.
The Eagles answered with a 17-8 run to open a 46-30 advantage with 5:11 remaining in the game.
“Not being able to hit from the outside killed us,” Kidd said, fighting back tears. “We were never able to open it up for Zach (Carnell) inside.”
Ingomar’s big man, the 6-7 senior Carnell, scored 13 points and connected on just two field goals, both in the first half.
“It seemed like every time I got the ball it got tough,” he said. “They were more physical than normal.”
Matt Purvis added 13 points to tie Carnell for the Falcons’ scoring lead.
“We pride ourselves on defense and we have been playing that way all year,” West Bolivar coach Willie Thomas said. “We got a bunch of guys who buy into our scheme. No superstars. Just a bunch of guys who get out there on defense.”