By John Wilbert
BY JOHN WILBERT
JACKSON – Ingomar High boys coach Norris Ashley can put off answering questions about his last game as a basketball coach for another day.
The 62-year-old coach – who will likely retire after this season, his 39th at Ingomar – led his Falcons team to an impressive 70-56 victory over Durant in front of an estimated crowd of 1,800 for Friday afternoon’s MHSAA Class 1A state tournament semifinal at the Mississippi Coliseum.
However, from the second quarter through the middle of the fourth quarter, Ashley’s squad was in a closely-contested battle.
“We knew that they were going to press us and we knew that they had a lot of quickness,” Ashley said of Durant, which battled back from a 15-point first-half deficit to tie the game at 31-all with 1:20 to go before halftime. “It seems like down here, that when a team gets behind, they get more aggressive, and you gotta be man enough to take care of it.
“Fortunately, we survived and came back and got another lead, and survived that one, too.”
Ingomar senior Matt Purvis sealed Durant’s fate in the fourth quarter with his 10 of 12 free-throw shooting effort.
Big man Zach Carnell was monumental in the first and third quarters. The 6-foot-7 Ingomar senior scored 11 points in the opening period and eight more in the third.
He finished with a game-high 28 points, while Purvis ended up with 19.
Cortez Frizell had a team-high 15 for Durant (23-5).
“When you’re playing against a senior-laden team like Ingomar, you can’t give them that type of lead,” Durant coach Kenyon Ross said about his team playing from behind for most of the game. “And then the type of energy that we put out to comeback, you just can’t give that type of team that type of lead.”
Ashley, the winningest high school basketball coach in Mississippi (1,662 career wins as a boys and girls coach combined), will lead his 29-6 Falcons against McAdams in Thursday’s 2:30 p.m. Class 1A state title game.
McAdams beat Myrtle – coached by ashley’s son, Jonathan – 68-65 in the other semifinal.
The elder Ashley will be vying for his ninth state title overall, his fifth as a boys coach.
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