New Albany may have not been given much of a chance going into their semifinal match-up against St. Stanislaus, but the Bulldogs made the most of their opportunity before falling in the final minutes of their 73-66 game Monday night.
The Bulldogs led for a majority of the first half despite the Rock-a-Chaws using their inside force, led by Johnny Zuppardo with 11 first quarter points.
“They’re very physical, and the teams like that are the ones that have given us problems,” NAHS Head Coach Brad Gray said. “We’re not used to it, and they’re a little more physical. I thought we did a good job in the first half, but I think they got in our heads some in the second half, rattled us some and got us out of our game.”
After holding a one-point lead at the break, St. Stanislaus opened the second half on an 8-0 run to go ahead, 36-27. The Rock-a-Chaws went ahead by as many as 13 early in the fourth, but New Albany’s final push saw them come within two points in the final minutes.
“We called a timeout and pulled them aside. We told them ‘Guys, we can do one of two things, we can quit or we can do whatever we can.’ These guys have answered every challenge we’ve put in front of them all year long,” Gray said. “I wasn’t surprised that they went out there and answered it. We just ran out of time.”
Devonte Berry and Malcolm Spears led the ‘Dawgs in the final quarter, scoring 10 and 11 points respectively, and New Albany connected on four triples in the effort.
“I’m very proud of them; disappointed at how it ended. I was very proud of their effort this year; their achievements and accomplishments,” Gray said. “I hate we came up a little short tonight, but St. Stanislaus is a very good team. I just wish we could have done a little more for these seniors going out.”
Berry led the Bulldogs (28-5) with 16 points, followed by Kareem Brown with 14, Spears with 13 and Moses Kingsley with 10 points. Kingsley also contributed with eight blocks.
For the Rock-a-Chaws (33-2), Daniel Grieves led with 26 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, while Davon Hayes added 17 and Zuppardo finished with 16 points.