Class 3A Aberdeen, in legendary coach Roy Hazzle's 24th and final season, handed Class 1A power Okolona (8-3) an 85-61 loss at Roy E. Hazzle Gymnasium.
Aberdeen led by as many as 32, taking the first of two 30-plus point leads, 74-43 on back-to-back buckets from Earnest Williams with 6:17 left.
"Tonight we did what we had to do, good defense," Hazzle said. "Playing against a guy like D.J., he's going to get his points. Our plan was to limit the other guys and I think we did a good job of rebounding once they missed."
Gardner, a Mississippi State-signee, got his, scoring a game-high 38 points, 12 of them on four straight 3-pointers in the final quarter. No other Chieftain scored in double figures.
Aberdeen sophomores Rico Haughton and Brandon Hodges had 22 and 10 points each. Senior Fred Ward had 11.
"I thought they defended us real well," said Okolona coach Bobby Ford. "I didn't know they were that good defensively. They bothered us offensively."
Aberdeen got off the blocks early. Jeremy Roberts had a crowd-raising slam in the first quarter, followed by Haughton's 3 for 14-6 lead at the 4:42 mark. Gardner's four-point play pulled Okolona within 22-16.
(G) Aberdeen 49 Okolona 39
Okolona's Quindella Ford's steal and bucket put the Lady Chieftains (2-7) ahead 20-19, the halftime total, but Aberdeen closed with a strong second half.
Four straight fourth quarter points from Jamika Washington put Aberdeen (3-4) ahead 37-32 and Rachel Garth's old-fashioned three-point play carried Aberdeen to a 40-32 lead with 4:30 left.
Washington had 17 points, followed by 14 from Regina Barker and 12 from Garth. Ford had a game-high 24 for Okolona.