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BA teams advance in state tourney

GRENADA – Good teams find a way to win games. If one thing isnot working, then they go another way. This was the case Wednesdaynight for the Brookhaven Academy Lady Cougars in the opening roundof the State Class AA Tournament at Kirk Academy.

The Lady Cougars struggled at times with their outside game butwent to their inside game of Lindsey Phillips and Lindsay Altman,who combined for 31 points as BA pulled away in the second half andwon a 52-39 decision over Marvell, Ark. With the win, the LadyCougars improved to 38-1 overall and face host Kirk at 2:30 p.m.Friday in the semifinals.

In boys’ action, the Brookhaven Academy Cougars advanced with aneasy 61-39 win over First Assembly Christian School of Cordova,Tenn.

In the other boys game Wednesday, Simpson County beat WinstonAcademy 58-41. In girls action, Cruger-Tchula held off SimpsonAcademy 64-56.

Brookhaven 52, Marvell 39

“I was encouraged that we took the ball inside when we saw wewere having problems with our outside shooting,” BA girls’ coachBarry Gray said.

Gray was also encouraged with his squad’s energy leve theyshowed in the second half after they took a 25-22 lead to thedressing room.

“There’s no question that we came out a little tight,” Grayexplained. “But I thought that we came out of the dressing roomwith more energy and it showed in our play.”

The difference in the game may have been Brookhaven’s ability toshut down Marvell’s Robin Chastain in the second half. Consideredone of the top players in the MPSA, Chastain finished with 18points – 14 of them in the opening half.

“We decided to come off No. 41 (Amanda McWilliams) to give somehelp on Chastain,” Gray said. “I don’t know how much we gained fromit but they didn’t score everytime down the court.”

Gray gave most of the credit in the second half to Brookhaven’szone press and zone defense.

“I think that our zone press and zone defense helped us toincrease the tempo of the game,” Gray said. “We did a lot betterjob with it and enabled us to speed things up. It was tooslow.”

The game went back and forth for the first 16 minutes. Neitherteam led by more than four points. Altman’s bucket near the end ofthe first period gave Brookhaven a 12-10 advantage after oneperiod.

Chastain gave Marvell (26-8) its first lead at the 5:50 mark ofthe second period at 16-15. The lead changed hands five times afterthat.

Brookhaven scored six of the final eight points of the period tolead bythree points at halftime.

In the second half, Phillips scored and made it 27-22. BA gotthe lead to nine points at 35-26 with just under five minutes leftin the third period following a three-point play from AnnaGatlin.

The Lady Cougars held Marvell nearly five minutes in the periodwithout scoring and took a 39-28 advantage into the finalquarter.

Marvell was able to get as close as nine on two differentoccasions. Brookhaven’s biggest advantage was 49-36 with 1:33left.

Phillips led all scorers with 19 points while Altman added 12points.

Brookhaven 63, First Assembly 39

Coach Dale Watts’ Cougars held First Assembly without afield goal until the end of the first period. The third place teamfrom the North had just three field goals the entire first half.That defensive effort was something that the veteran coach hasstressed for years.

“We tell our players that championships are won withdefense,” Watts said. “From pee-wee camp and up, we stress thatdefense is the name of the game. I was proud of our effort and ourstepping into the passing lane and with what we call help andrecover.”

The offensive end wasn’t too bad for Brookhaven either.They led 14-4 at the end of the opening period and 34-12 athalftime. Watts was also pleased in this area.

“I thought offensively that our decision-making was muchbetter,” the coach said.

It was a good win for Brookhaven, 29-7, and sends theminto the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday against Marshall Academy.Watts said a game like this was good for his team after adisappointing performance in last week’s South AA Tournament atBrookhaven. “It was definitely good for us after a subpar lastweek.

“It wasn’t a blowout by no means. They have a quality,well-coached team that made us work to score.”

The biggest lead of the opening half for the Cougars wasat 30-6 following a bucket by Paul Coker with 3:25 left in thehalf. First Assembly scored two of their three first half fieldgoals in the final 1:19 of the half.

In the second half, Brookhaven got the lead to as muchas 25 points on three different occasions. First Assembly scored 27of its 39 points in the second half. They got no closer than 18points in the final period.

Coker led all scorers with 20 points while Ben Davisfinished with 13 points. Turner Howard added 11points.

Action continues Friday with girls action scheduled inthe afternoon and the boys at night. The top three in each bracketadvance to next week’s Overall Tournament at Mississippi College inClinton.

“I appreciate the fan support,” said Gray. “We had ahuge crowd and they were very supportive. I hope they can be withus again on Friday.

“The headmaster (Allen Smithers) from Kirk challengedus,” said Gray. “He said he could get more fans in the gym thanus.”

The BA teams play at 2:30 and 6 in thesemifinals.

Gray said his team is on a mission. “We want to honorGod with our team effort and success. God has really blessedus.”