Twelve months separate the two times New Albany and Lafayette have faced one another. The last match-up saw the Lady Bulldogs edge the Lady Commodores in double overtime to win the North Half Championship. This year, the stakes were higher, as the two squads battled knowing that only one would advance to Jackson.
Defense was the story for the Lady ‘Dawgs, as they held Lafayette to only 35 points, leading to their semifinal win.
“I don’t know if there were any defining moments or plays, but we did play solid defense the entire game,” NAHS head coach John Stroud said. “They were really physical, and that took us out of our game a little bit. We were trying to create fouls instead of playing, but the last four minutes, we turned it on defensively, rebounded the ball well and held them to only one shot.”
New Albany built an early 12-2 lead in the first, six points from Jazmine Spears. Shaquilla Isom scored the Lady ‘Dores only points in the quarter with New Albany leading 18-6.
Ahead 24-17 at the break, the Lady Bulldogs began to feel the pressure from Lafayette, as Isom made it a four-point game going into the fourth quarter. From that point, New Albany outscored the Lady ‘Dores 15-5, never letting up with their intensity, despite Spears picking up her fourth foul with 5:43 remaining.
“She fouls a lot and plays so hard, but you have to let her stay in there and see what she can do. She’s an imposing figure on the court; she’s just so strong,” Stroud said. “I think it was not just one big basket, rather we made a lot of stops on defense. I think our defense won the game tonight.”
Spears led New Albany with 21 points, while Kebrina Lucas added 15. Isom was Lafayette’s leading scorer with 14 points.
New Albany advances to Jackson for the third straight year, but before their State Semifinal match-up, they will face Pontotoc on Saturday for the North Half Championship. This will be the fourth meeting between the two division opponents this season, and the Lady Bulldogs look to remain unbeaten against in-state teams.
“We’re just lucky to still be playing and going to Jackson, so tomorrow night’s game is big, but we’re looking forward to going back to Jackson as well,” Stroud said. “After tomorrow, we’re looking at it as a two-game season, the two games we’ll have in Jackson.”
Joining the Lady ‘Dawgs are the boys' squad, who defeated Greenwood, 68-52.
Malcolm Spears led the Bulldogs with 19 points, followed by Tadarious Coburn with 16 and Devonte Berry with 14 points. Head coach Brad Gray is most pleased with the total team effort he has seen recently, as they will now face Rosa Fort for the North Half Championship.
“We played really well on the defensive end, blocking out and rebounding, he said. “Offensively, the kids are doing a good job moving the ball and sharing. When we play together, we’re tough to beat, but you never know which team is going to show up.”
“These kids deserve this. They’ve worked hard for three years and have done every thing I’ve asked them to. They’ve bought into what the coaching staff’s been teaching and building this program on.”
New Albany fell in the first round of the playoffs to Rosa Fort in 2010, but the ‘Dawgs focus is not on revenge, rather playing their game and preparing for Jackson.
“We’re at the point where we don’t care so much about playing Rosa Fort or Amanda Elzy, we’re just worried about playing basketball,” Gray said. “We’re just going to try to do what we do better than they do what they do, and we’ll see what happens. If we can out execute them and out hustle them, I think we’ll be okay.”
Other semifinal recaps
Myrtle 69 H.W. Byers 68 (boys)
The Hawks impressive playoff run continues, as Russ Yates led the Hawks in their one-point win over the Lions in Okolona.
Yates buzzer-beater sends Myrtle (20-17) to Saturday’s championship against Drew as well as a return trip to Jackson.
Coldwater 51 Myrtle 42 (girls)
The Lady Hawks’ season came to a disappointing end, as the host team Lady Cougars advanced to Jackson with a nine-point win.
Jerontay Clemons scored 41 points for Coldwater, who will play H.W. Byers for the North Half Championship.
Myrtle’s season comes to an end at 27-8.