It is all about unfinished business for the Bulldogs, as they captured their second straight division tournament championship and now look ahead to the North Half playoffs.
Taking on Shannon in Saturday night’s championship game, New Albany fought from behind for the 58-53 win.
Led by 16 first half points from Jamar Clifton, the Red Raiders controlled the half, leading 30-25 at the break after Clifton scored six of Shannon’s final eight points once New Albany took a brief lead.
Kareem Brown and Tadarious Coburn led an 8-0 run for the ‘Dawgs in the third, giving them a three-point lead before Javon Green tied the game at 38 with his triple. Devonte Berry responded with his three-pointer to end the third with New Albany ahead.
“I thought in the second half, we gutted it out more, played physical and were a little more aggressive on defense,” Bulldogs head coach Brad Gray said. “I thought defensively in both halves, we did a good job of not letting their shooters get loose, but we were lucky to win.”
Shannon closed in to as many as three points in the fourth, but New Albany used an 8-2 run to extend their lead in the final minute, and Lakee Westbrook closed the contest with his three-pointer.
Brown led the Bulldogs with 18 points, while Berry added 13 off the bench and Coburn scored 12 points.
Clifton finished the game with 21 points for Shannon, but to the Bulldogs’ credit, was held scoreless in the final quarter.
“I think he started getting a little tired,” Gray said of Clifton. “He uses his body well and is strong and physical. He’s a good player.”
This is the second straight division tournament championship for the Bulldogs, who will begin their run for a state championship on Tuesday.
“It’s a good accomplishment. I’m proud of the kids and their effort, but we still have a long way to go. We still have a lot of unfinished business to take care of, so we’re going to go back to the gym, work and see what we can do.”
The Lady Bulldogs earned their third-straight division tournament crown; holding on for an eight point, 60-52, win over Pontotoc.
Trailing by 17 going into the final quarter, Pontotoc opened with five-straight points and used a 13-4 run to put the game back in single digits at 51-43.
Nyambi Penson scored eight points in the frame, helping New Albany hold on for the win.
“We played really well the first three quarters, and then we got kind of lackadaisical there in the fourth quarter,” Lady ‘Dawgs head coach John Stroud said. “Pontotoc’s a good team, and they pressure you, but all-in-all, I thought it was a good win for us.”
Jazmine Spears led the Lady ‘Dawgs with 19 points, 18 rebounds, scoring 12 points in the third quarter after sitting out most of the second quarter with two fouls.
“She’s so big, and they always pick on the big person,” Stroud said. “She battled back, and that was really the difference inside.”
Three players finished with 10 points, Penson, Micha Washington and Porche White, who also had eight assists.
“I thought she played the best game of her career,” Stroud said of White. “They weren’t guarding her, so it was a total team effort. Now we’re the top seed for North Half, which is great as well.”
The win is also the 28th straight for New Albany against division opponents, dating back to Jan. 30, 2009, when Itawamba defeated the Lady ‘Dawgs, 85-65.
Due to postponements in the Region 2-4A tournament, both the ‘Dawgs and Lady ‘Dawgs will next play at home in first round North Half action on Tuesday.
Other Consolation/Championship scores
Ingomar 56 Potts Camp 54 (girls) Lady Falcons will be the #3 seed
Ingomar 64 Myrtle 63 (boys) Falcons will be the #3 seed, Hawks the #4 seed
H.W. Byers 54 Myrtle 52 (OT) (girls) Lady Hawks will be the #2 seed
Hickory Flat 72 East Union 39 (boys) Rebels will be the #3 seed, Urchins the #4 seed