By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
MYRTLE – Malcolm Spears knows the New Albany Bulldogs will be focused tonight when they play the Myrtle Hawks in the Union County Tournament’s championship game.
His coach, Brad Gray, made sure of that 12 months ago.
Gray’s Bulldogs were 15 seconds away from exiting the court with a 21-point loss to Ingomar in the tourney title game when he called a timeout.
“Coach told us we needed to remember this,” said Spears, a senior. “I don’t know what happened last year. We didn’t come out and make plays.
“I know we’re going to come out and be focused this year.”
New Albany (16-2) returned to the championship game, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today, on the strength of Friday’s 80-49 victory against East Union in the semifinals.
Myrtle, coached by Jonathan Ashley, defeated Ingomar – coached by his father, Norris Ashley – 69-66 in the other boys semifinal.
New Albany was certainly focused early, jumping out to a 12-0 lead behind six points from Tadarious Coburn, who scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the first half.
East Union trailed 26-16 early in the second quarter when the Bulldogs went on a 14-2 run to race ahead 40-18.
“Our depth hurt them,” Gray said of the Urchins. “They shot the ball well and they play hard as long as they can.”
For the winners, 6-9 Moses Kingsley scored 14 points and Spears added 10. Trey Barkley and Chris Tables scored 11 each for East Union (7-11).
Gray expects his Bulldogs will have their hands full tonight against the homestanding Hawks.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” he said. “These kids play together. Any time you’re playing a Union County team it’s going to be tough.”
Later Friday, Robert Montgomery scored 25 points, including 8 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, to seal the win for Myrtle (12-10).
Ingomar (7-10) was led by Wesley Jumper, who scored a game-high 27 points. His 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining cut Myrtle’s lead to 68-66.
(G) New Albany 66, Ingomar 46
In the girls championship game, scheduled for 6 p.m., host Myrtle (17-4) battles New Albany (16-2), the state’s top-ranked team and a club that beat the 49-48 last week.
The Lady Bulldogs are 2-0 against Myrtle this season. Myrtle reached the title game with Thursday’s 71-32 win against West Union.
“Last week was a great game,” Myrtle girls coach Chris Greer said. “I told John Stroud (New Albany’s coach) that I hope both teams play their best … and I hope we’re playing in front of a sold-out crowd.”
Porche White scored 15 points and Kebrina Lucas added 13 for New Albany in its win over Ingomar. Shelly Grisham’s 18 paced the Lady Falcons.