NEW ALBANY IS FIRST AREA TEAM TO PLAY
By Mike Talbert
The area’s No. 1 New Albany Bulldogs have been leading the way most of the season, they will be leading the way in a way they don’t want this week.
Today, the Bulldogs (30-4) will be the first of an even dozen area teams to play in the two-week long state basketball tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
The Bulldogs must face the No. 3 south seed West Marion (23-8) at 3 p.m. today in the Class 3A boys opener after losing at home 61-54 to Senatobia (30-5) in the North Mississippi 3A championship first.
“These kids won 30 games, and they didn’t win them playing like they did Saturday. I have faith in them that they will bounce back,” New Albany coach Warner Bradford said.
“This could be a blessing in disguise if they regain their defensive intensity.”
The next area team to play will be the North 4A girls runner up Tishomingo County (24-9), which plays at 9 a.m. Tuesday. It willill not be until March 7 that the last area team, the North 2A boys champion Mooreville Troopers (24-8) open play 3 p.m. in the semifinals. It is the same day New Albany would open play in the 3A title game if the Bulldogs take care of business.
If for no other reason, Bradford feels like his Bulldogs have a good shot, just from the toughness of the Division 1-3A teams, plus the playoffs that included games with defending state champion Rosa Fort and Senatobia of Division 2-3A.
“Just for our kids to come through the two divisions they did and make it here is an accomplish,” Bradford said of New Albany’s first state tournament visit since 1992. “We had Corinth and Shannon in our division , and Senatobia, Rosa Fort and Eupora in Division 2, I think all of them were ranked in state at some time.”
Bradford has only a sketchy scouting report on West Marion. “They have three big boys who weigh around 250 pounds inside and a point guard who shots the threes outside,” he said.
New Albany has a balance attack that includes a pair of 6-6 post players in Bradley Jones (18 ppg) and Matt Koon (11 ppg), and three perimeter players, Shawn High (18 ppg) and Cedric Lipsey and Richard Harris.
Seven area teams will have first round games before the five area North half champions Oxford boys and girls in class 4A, West Union girls and Biggersville boys in Class 1 A and Mooreville open up in the semifinals.
The Tishomingo County girls (24-9) has a 9 a.m. with Stone County (22-12) Tuesday in Class 4A. Wednesday The Smithville girls (22-10) play Enterprise-Lincoln at 7 p.m. and Falkner’s boys (21-9) meet three-time defending state champion Durant (26-8) at 8:30 p.m. in Class 1A games.
Three teams wrap up first round play Thursday with Hickory Flat (26-8) playing Bogue Chitto at 1:30 in a Class 1A girls game. At 7 p.m., in a class 2A girls game, Hatley (29-4) plays Bay Springs (21-11) and in 2A boys Calhoun City (13-13) plays Bay Springs at 8:30 p.m.
None of the North champions play until next week.
The consolation bracket of the North half tournament, held little consolation for area teams who went 1-5. The only area winner in the consolation bracket, Hickory Flat, was matched up with East Webster in an all-area bracket. Other teams to fall in consolation were Nettleton and girls and Houston, West Clay and Tupelo boys.