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New Albany stops LCHS girls in 4A finals

JACKSON – Lawrence County saw their hopes and dreams of beingState 4A Champions come crashing down as the New Albany LadyBulldogs overpowered the Lady Cougars for an 71-61 victory Fridaynight in the MHSAA State Championship finals in the MississippiColiseum.

“We fought hard until the final buzzer,” said Lawrence County coachVicki Rutland. “New Albany has a very good team. They used theirsize effectively and they beat us on the boards.

“We knew coming in that it was going to be a battle,” continuedRutland. “Our girls did a good job for us and played well, but NewAlbany did the things they needed to do to win.”

The Lady Cougars finished their amazing season with a 26-9 record;winning the Region 7-4A crown and the South 4A.

“I would like to thank the fans for supporting us during theseason,” said Rutland. “They represented Lawrence County reallywell here in the State Tournament.”

New Albany 71, Lawrence Co. 61

The Lawrence County faithful followers, dressed in red and black,proudly came to Jackson and supported their school once again tosee the Lady Cougars battle for their first state championship atthe Big House.

Basketball fans witnessed an epic battle between two tough teamsbattling back-and-forth throughout the game. In the first quarter,Lawrence County quickly got on the board, when Tiaria Griffinnailed an NBA 3-pointer at the top of the arch to start thegame.

New Albany quickly answered back when Kebrina Lucas drove the laneand was fouled on the layup. She hit one of two free throws to putthe Lady Bulldogs on the scoreboard. New Albany started to settleddown as the first quarter progressed, using their two 6-foot postplayers to battle the ball inside the paint. The Lady Bulldogs led17-10 at the end of one.

In the second quarter, Lawrence County refused to be intimidated byNew Albany’s post players and roared back to cut the Lady Bulldogslead to three point, 30-27, before heading into halftime.

In the second half, the Lady Cougars came out eager to make astatement that they were not going down without a fight. LawrenceCounty captured a brief 35-33 lead as Tiara Griffin tossed in a15-footer at the 6-minute mark of the third. The Lady Bulldogsquickly called a timeout as they saw Lawrence County gainingmomentum.

After the timeout, New Albany went back to their bread and butterplayers, using their size and strength to recapture the lead,45-40, at the end of three.

In the fourth quarter, basketball fans witnessed a David versusGoliath marathon as both teams battled to the very end. LawrenceCounty tried everything they could to come out with a win, but NewAlbany refused to give up. They were seeking their first gold ballin three years, after two straight runner-up finishes.

Junior forward Tiaria Griffin pumped in a game-high 39 points tolead the Lady Cougars. She also collected 9 rebounds, 4 steals and2 assists. Alli Harris and Griffin received honors after the game;named to the All-State Tournament team.

“Tiaria has been team leader for us all season,” stated Rutland.”She stepped up and played that role for us very well. Our playersrallied behind her and did their part to help us win thegame.”

Senior guard Kebrina Lucas was the leader for the Lady Bulldogs(29-4) as she knocked down a team-high 25 points. Jazmine Spears, a6-0 post player, netted 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. MichaWashington, 6-2 post, contributed a double-double with 10 pointsand 10 rebounds.

“This was a tough battle for us,” said New Albany coach JohnStroud. “I am very proud of the girls finding a way to win.Lawrence County has a great team and one of the best-giftedoffensive player, Tiaria Griffin, which I have seen all year.

“Lucas played her best game,” continued Stroud. “It helped openedthe door for our post players to have the game that they arecapable of playing.”