It was a long and emotional three days for Myrtle head coach Jonathan Ashley, but when the whirlwind was over he found himself standing on the baseline surrounded by fans and family still trying to soak in the reality of winning the 1A North State Championship.
“This whole week really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s been a week that you have to give God all the glory for it,” Coach Jonathan Ashley said.
On Wednesday Coach Ashley’s Uncle had surgery and was reported of doing fine after the procedure, but thirty minutes later a second phone brought the unexpected news that his uncle had passed away.
“Knowing we had Shaw on Thursday night was kind of surreal with him being from Shaw,” Ashley said.
The Hawks rallied around their coach and played one of their best games as team to avenge their pair of regular season losses to Shaw with an impressive 72-56 victory in their first elimination game of the tournament.
Myrtle led 42-38 through three quarters of and outscored Shaw 30-16 in the fourth behind Beau Cummings scoring 11 of his 17 points while the Hawks connected on 16-of-32 from the free throw line in the final frame.
“I thought it was a great team effort in the half court on defense and we made enough free throws there in the end to win,” Ashley said.
David Wilson scored a game-high 23, Cummings 17, Jimel Judon 14, Robert Montgomery 8, Russ Yates 7, and Will Gregory added 3 points for the Hawks. Khiry Glenn and Kelvin Miller paced Shaw with 17 points each.
The Hawks punched their ticket to Jackson with a 55-54 victory over the red hot Okolona Chieftains on Friday.
A questionable call at the end of the third quarter appeared to be a bad omen when the refs waved off a shot at the buzzer that appeared to be good, but instead it showed the coaches the strides the team has made during the post season.
“We’ve been bad about making excuses about this and that all season, but I think they have grown up in the past few weeks where a month ago that would have sunk us,” Ashley said.
It appeared the questionable could was going to cost the Hawks as the two teams battled back-and-forth until the Chieftains held on to a 54-53 lead after a pair of missed free throws by the Hawks in the final seconds of the game.
Okolona returned the favor by missing the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with eleven seconds left in the game. On the ensuing possession the Hawks threw up a wild three-pointer, but Okolona fouled Jimel Judon on the rebound sending him to the line where he connected on a pair of free throws to give Myrtle a 55-54 edge with eight seconds left.
The Chieftains appeared to throw the game away with a turnover, but the Hawks reopened the door when they traveled with the ball on the attempted inbounds. David Gardner got a good look at the three-pointer, but missed the shot as the Judon grabbed the rebound and the one-point victory.
Wilson scored a game-high 27, Judon 20, Yates 7, and Cummings added 1 point for the Hawks while Gardner led the Chieftains with 19 points.
The Hawks found their backs against the wall in the North State Championship game against Coldwater, but once again answered the call by outscoring the Cougars 25-18 in the fourth quarter to pick up the 63-55 victory.
Judon scored 9 points while the Hawks connected on 5-of-10 from the charity stripe in the final frame to claim the 1A North State Championship.
“There wasn’t many people that believed this was possible, but those guys in the dressing room believed. It’s amazing what can happen when people believe in one another and I think that’s what we proved this week,” Ashley.
Judon scored a game-high 21, Wilson 18, Yates 8, Cummings and Montgomery added 7 each, and Steven Taylor scored 1 for the Hawks. Sanchez Hunt paced the Cougars with 16 points.
The Hawks will take on the winner between Calhoun City and West Lowndes in the semi-final round of 1A State Championship Tournament at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.