The passion and intensity that helped the Urchins earlier this season was seen once more on Thursday, with East Union defeating Hamilton, 73-66, to advance to Friday’s championship game in the Region 1-2A tournament.
“They played with a lot of heart, and they just didn’t quit tonight,” coach Tim McDonald said. ‘We had a stretch during the season, where we got down and it was hard to bail out of it, but tonight, we kept our composure, stayed with our game plan for four quarters, and it paid off.”
With six points from both Zarrat Sims and Demetrice Tremble in the first quarter, the Lions jumped out to a nine-point advantage after the first quarter, 22-13. Riding an 8-0 run to open the second frame, the Urchins got back within one, 22-21 and later tied the contest at 24. Hamilton had one more run before the half, going ahead by nine, but East cut it to a six-point deficit, 41-36, at the break.
“Tonight, we wanted to play with heart and play as a team,” sophomore Vadale Rucker said. “We haven’t done that the last couple of games, but we finally came together and played with passion. It showed out here tonight.”
Rucker tied the game once more in the third, and Trey Barkley and Chris Tables each gave the Urchins brief leads soon after. Broderick Montgomery helped distance the Urchins, as they outscored Hamilton, 39-25 in the second half.
“When they guard our shooters with their big, long athletes, someone has to step up and take the pressure off of those guys,” McDonald said of his post players. “Our post guys came in tonight and made some big baskets, and that made the difference for us.”
Rucker and Barkley each had 16 points for East Union (16-12), while Tables added 14 and Montgomery 10 points.
Hamilton had four players in double figures, led by Sims with 23. Tremble added 13 points, followed by 10 points from both Quinshay Heard and Ben Seely.
The Urchins will next play Baldwyn for the Region 1-2A title on Friday. The Bearcats defeated East Union, 72-52, last month. More importantly for the Urchins is that they will host the first round of the 2A north playoffs next Tuesday; a goal the team set earlier in the season.
“We made it the first round last year and were put out at Calhoun City, so we wanted to make sure we could get a home game. I’m proud of them for doing that,” McDonald said.
“To be playing at home next Tuesday feels great,” Rucker added. “Hamilton is a tremendous team, but we owed them one. We didn’t want them to come out and beat us again tonight.”
New Albany 72 North Pontotoc 60 (boys)
On a night where Memorial Gym hosted the University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, the Bulldogs pulled away to advance to the region 2-4A title game.
Pitino, who was in New Albany to watch junior Moses Kinsley, watched as 6’9 post star registered a triple double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and 12 blocks.
Both Kingsley and Eric Chaney helped the Bulldogs get to a 27-12 lead after the first quarter, with the duo scoring a combined 18 points. Both sat out in the second quarter due to foul trouble, and that helped the Vikings get back in the game, coming within five points, 29-24.
Coming out of the half, the Bulldogs outscored North Pontotoc, 22-8, in the third and held off several comeback attempts by the Vikings in the final frame.
Marcus Green led all scorers with 25 points for North Pontotoc, followed by 10 points from Ben Shannon.
Chaney led New Albany (16-9) with 21 points, followed by Kingsley’s 16 and 13 points from Daniel Drummond.
The Bulldogs will next play Rosa Fort at 8:30 p.m. on Friday for the division championship. Rosa Fort defeated Senatobia, 58-57 on Thursday. Senatobia will take on the Vikings in the boys consolation game at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
Senatobia 51 New Albany 40 (girls)
The Lady Bulldogs fell into Friday’s consolation game after an 11-point setback to Senatobia.
With limited play from Jazmine Spears due to a stomach virus, the Lady Bulldogs managed only one made field goal in the first half, trailing 22-7, at the break.
Behind the three-point shooting of Aravia Foote and Britney Johnson, New Albany briefly cut the deficit to single digits, but were unable to do any more, falling to 12-12 on the season.
Alisha Smith led New Albany with 12 points, followed by Johnson with 11 points.
Dieash Todd led Senatobia with 14 points, followed by 12 points from Tekevanna Young.
The Lady ‘Dawgs will play Lafayette on Friday in the girls consolation game. The Lady Commodores dropped a 62-48 decision to North Pontotoc on Thursday. The Lady Vikings and Senatobia will play for the girls championship at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Scores from Region 2-1A tournament at H.W. Byers
Coldwater 65 Myrtle 63 (boys)
H.W. Byers 58 Myrtle 35 (girls)
H.W. Byers 70 Ingomar 64 (boys)
Girls Consolation: Myrtle vs. Ashland 4 p.m.
Boys Consolation: Myrtle vs. Ingomar 5:30 p.m.
Boys Championship: East Union vs. Baldwyn 8:30 p.m.
Girls Consolation: New Albany vs. Lafayette 4 p.m.
Boys Championship: New Albany vs. Rosa Fort 8:30 p.m.