New Albany snapped a two-game losing streak and earned a tough division win, defeating Itawamba at home Tuesday night.
Jazmine Spears picked up her fourth foul late in the game, but head coach John Stroud showed confidence in his sophomore star, keeping her in the game as New Albany earned the 56-43 win.
“She had some ticky-tack calls against her, but she’s getting older and better; learning how to play with the fouls,” he said. “We were confident she wasn’t going to foul out, and she was doing good against their press, making good decisions.”
Itawamba’s half court trap caused problems for the Lady ‘Dawgs, but only after New Albany built a 10-0 lead to open the game. The Lady Indians later cut the deficit to four, 12-8, but New Albany, led by eight first quarter points from Micha Washington, held a six-point advantage after the frame.
“We worked all week on it, but it’s their bread and butter,” Stroud said. “We had trouble with it, but at least when we had those turnovers, they didn’t have points off of those.”
Spears led New Albany in the third with six points, and Itawamba would cut the lead to single digits in the fourth with Ally McDonald and Rebecca Cleveland hitting back-to-back three-pointers, but Washington answered each time on the other end, finishing with 17 points in the game.
“Any time Itawamba hits a three-pointer and goes to the press, they can stay in the game, so no lead is safe against them,” Stroud said. “We were real rusty since we’ve been off for three weeks, but we played really good defense.”
“We out guarded and played hard, but we missed a lot of lay ups and we didn’t make a lot of free throws; it could have been a 20 point game if it weren’t for that.”
Spears also finished with 17 points for New Albany (13-2, 5-0), followed by Kebrina Lucas with 12 points. Laken McKnatt led Itawamba with 11 points.
Next for New Albany is a Friday home contest against Myrtle. The in-county showdown has become one of the biggest games of the season, with New Albany holding the edge in the last four meetings. The Lady Hawks, who defeated Lafayette out of 4A last month, will once again be a tough test for the Lady Bulldogs.
“It’s always a battle, and we’re fortunate to have won the last four in the series,” Stroud said. “We’ve played well against them, and we have to keep that up Friday night and play as best as we can.”
New Albany 93 Itawamba 50 (boys)
The Bulldogs had no problem downing their division rival, opening the New Year with a 93-50 win over Itawamba.
New Albany jumped to an 8-0 lead and never looked back, holding a 29-14 advantage after the first quarter, led by eight points from both Eric Chaney and Malcolm Spears.
Spears led New Albany with 16 points, followed by Javonte Newsome with 14, Moses Kingsley with 13 and 10 points from Chaney.
The win is the fourth in a row for the ‘Dawgs since falling on the road to Shannon.
“The main thing with the Shannon loss was that we came out flat and didn’t play well, we didn’t play with intensity and we didn’t play with heart, and anytime you’re playing basketball in Northeast Mississippi, you have to bring those three things each night, otherwise you will get beat,” head coach Brad Gray said. “We didn’t do that against Shannon. It was a good lesson for our guys, and I think they’ve rebounded well so far.”
The Bulldogs (13-2, 3-1) also earned a tournament win last week in Dyersburg, TN and will play Myrtle on Friday.