Brookhaven Academy closes out home hoops schedule with sweep of Bowling Green

Published 12:07 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

The senior members of the Brookhaven Academy girls’ basketball team were honored prior to tipoff of the varsity game on Thursday in John R. Gray Gymnasium.

That senior foursome of Braelynn Byrd, Zoey Cade, Reagan Fortenberry and Mallory Martin all drew the start for BA coach Ron Kessler against the visitors from Bowling Green School. Senior student assistant Anniston Palmer was also recognized during the pre-game ceremony.

There was no ceremony for the boys’ team as Cougar head coach Josh Watts doesn’t have a senior on his roster.

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The game was the final time for Brookhaven Academy fans to get a glimpse of their team in Gray Gymnasium with the postseason beginning next week.

Kessler’s crew got a team-high 16 points and 16 rebounds from the only non-senior to start, junior forward Ainsley Orr. Orr also blocked two shots and had three steals as BA won 45-36 in a game that stayed tight throughout.

“I had to get on Ainsley a little bit at the start of the game because I didn’t think she was playing to her potential,” said Kessler. “To her credit, she responded and made some big plays for us late down the stretch when we needed her presence inside.”

The Brookhaven boys’ team won’t finish in the top four of their district and therefore won’t qualify for the MAIS 5A South State Tournament next week at Oak Forest Academy in Amite, Louisiana.

Junior guard Carter Davis made sure the home crowd had something to cheer about as he scored the first five points of the game for BA and then stayed hot to finish with 27 points in a 44-34 win for the Cougars in the varsity boys’ finale.

The two teams will face off again on Friday when the Cougars make the trip to Washington Parish to play Bowling Green in Franklinton, Louisiana. That game is one that was rescheduled from earlier this month due to the winter weather that closed schools.

The win moved the Brookhaven Academy girls’ team to 26-9 on the season.

Freshman guard Ann Rylea Thurman scored 10 points for BA while Fortenberry scored seven, Cade added six and junior guard Ella Smith chipped in six points of her own.

BG had pulled within 39-36 with 55 seconds remaining in the game, but Orr went 2-of-2 from the free throw line to put her team back up by five points and the Buccaneers would end the game without scoring another point over that final minute.

BA led 23-19 at the half as Bowling Green stuck to nearly within two possessions from the first tip until the final buzzer.

“Their point guard Chloe Bertrand was voted MVP of our district, which was a well-deserved honor and their senior post, Bailey Devall, has signed with William Carey University,” said Kessler. “They’re always going to be well coached and gritty and I’m proud of our girls for getting this one.”

A win on Friday at BG will give Brookhaven Academy first place in MAIS District 3-5A ahead of the south state tourney next week.

That hadn’t seemed possible before Thursday, but BA got the good news after their game went final that Columbia Academy had upset Parklane Academy, the division leader, 47-45 on Thursday.

Parklane is now 7-3 in district games with losses to Columbia, Bowling Green (45-37) and Oak Forest Academy (64-53). The Pioneers swept BA (71-57, 63-53) and those losses are the only district defeats of the season for the Cougars, who are 7-2 in the division heading into the finale at Bowling Green on Friday.

Host Oak Forest will be the No. 1 team from the district in 5A South State next week in the boys’ bracket. Parklane Academy will be the No. 2 seed and both of those schools will be favorites along with the Adams County Christian School Rebels and Copiah Academy Colonels from District 4-5A.

The BA boys’ team can vouch for the talent of OFA and Parklane. Oak Forrest has a junior, 6-foot-8 forward in Garrett Shoemaker that’s averaging 20 points per game and Parklane is led by senior wing Brewer Carruth, a Southern Miss basketball signee.

Watt’s team, with two sophomores and three juniors starting, began the new year with a 12-7 overall record before playing Parklane in the district opener. The win over BG put the Cougars at 15-15 ahead of the season finale at Bowling Green on Friday.

Davis, who transferred to BA after his family moved back to Lincoln County from Texas this year, made seven free throws in the fourth quarter to preserve the win. In addition to his 27 points, he also had six rebounds and five steals for the Cougars.

The visiting Bucs pulled within 38-32 with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter on a made 3-pointer, but the Cougars made the plays needed down the stretch to hold them off.

“Tonight was the first time in a long time where we didn’t see a defense that was keyed in on Carter,” said Watts. “We’ve seen teams play a Box-And-1 against us and we even had one night where he was double teamed the entire time.”

Brookhaven led 21-11 at halftime and then got a 3-pointer from Davis to start the third quarter to increase that advantage.

Sophomore forward Madden Coleman scored nine points and pulled down a game high 15 rebounds for the Cougars. Sophomore guard Jess Cox added seven points in the win for BA and junior wing Asher Havard scored one point as well.

“It was a good night,” said Watts. “All five of the starters did something that helped us win. Madden really challenged their big guy in the paint and won a lot of rebounds that could have gone either way. Jess did a good job of getting us into our offense and Asher and Jon Mark Beasley played solid defense on their better players. The guys played with a lot of pride and effort, which is how we’ve been saying we wanted to end this season.”