Aberdeen (22-8), which lost last year to eventual champ Kemper County and last missed the state tournament in 2011, was down by just three in the closing seconds.
“We came out in the third quarter hoping to be aggressive because we knew the third was what would win or lose the game,” Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said. “We just didn’t seem to get on track like we should have, but you can’t take anything away from them.”
Aberdeen led most of the first half, taking the lead halfway through the first quarter on a Jakeese Walker basket.
The two teams exchanged leads three times in the second, with Moses Greenwood hitting a two-point shot to give the Falcons the lead for good.
Neither team was able to get much going in the third with a Walker basket at the buzzer cutting the Falcons’ lead to five. Back-to-back baskets from Justin Washington and Kendarius Murray opened up Velma Jackson’s first double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
Aberdeen started to claw its way back into the game with a 3-pointer from Nick Sims and a two-point basket from Marcus Carothers to be down by four before Murray hit three free throws.
Ken McCoy scored four straight to put the Bulldogs back within three before Anfernee Brown’s free throw with 3 seconds to go sealed the win for the Falcons.
Walker was the only Bulldog in double figures with 17 points, while Quindarious Witherspoon scored 21 for Velma Jackson.
Hazzle loses 10 seniors off this year’s team.