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Prep turns back BA Cougars

CLINTON – Relying on their patient Princeton offense, the Brookhaven Academy Cougars slowed down Jackson Prep’s high-powered offense but the Patriots managed to escape with a hard-fought, 47-39 Wednesday night victory in the MAIS Overall Tournament. The Patriots were sparked by 6-4 junior forward Josh Williams  who scored 14 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.

     Prep (36-1), ranked No. 1 among MAIS teams, advances to Friday’s semifinals to play Central Private at 7:15 in Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum. Class AA state champion Marshall tackles Hillcrest Christian in the other semifinals game at 6 p.m.

     In the girls semifinals, Prep’s girls meet Starkville Academy at 1 p.m. and AA champion Leake Academy plays Madison-Ridgeland at 2:15. Championship finals are Saturday at 1 p.m. (girls) and 3:30 (boys).

     Brookhaven Academy senior guard Brennan Miller said the Princeton offense has derailed several superior opponents during his career. “It’s continuous. You can score off of it. Prep has a real strong team with a bunch of athletes.”

     Prep, seeking its first Overall title in 16 years, was able to overcome the game plan installed by BA coach Dale Watts. His 32-5 Cougars committed 6 turnovers in the first quarter and trailed 15-8. They were down 22-14 at halftime, making 38 percent of their field goal attempts.

     “We needed to keep the score low,” said Watts. “We shot ourselves in the foot with early turnovers.

     “Our kids fought hard and got back in the game,” Watts continued. “I’m proud of them. The goal started looking a little smaller for Prep when we cut their lead.”

     The Patriots led by as much as 15 points, 31-16, on a trey by Wirt Dunbar with 4 minutes left in the third frame. BA battled back and reduced its deficit to 5 points, 34-29, when Gage Posey swished a trey with 4:02 left in the game.

     Prep forward Ryan Buchanan responded with a 3-point play to ignite an 8-2 run that put the game away. He finished with 10 points.

     “I told my team it might look easy but it will take a lot of work,” said Prep coach David Horner. “We won this game in practice when we prepared for them.

     “Coach Watts is a great coach and he made us play a style we are not used to playing,” Conner noted.  “They are going to run their offense 45 seconds and get by us on backdoor baskets. We knew they were going to make us work on defense.”

     Prep’s deep bench maintained defensive pressure on the Cougars who shot 51 percent from the field for the game. Posey, a junior southpaw, paced the Cougars with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Senior guard Brock Smith added 10 points before fouling out with 10 seconds left to play.

     “My team gave it all we had,” said Smith. “I had a great group to play with this season.”

     Smith, along with Miller and Christian “Bubba” Keene, have been selected to play in the MAIS All-Star Game, March 9, in Wood Coliseum. BA’s Terah Winborne and Laura Beth Wright were chosen to play for the South All-Star Girls.