December 28, 2012 9:28:09 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Playing their style throughout the contest, Aberdeen High School basketball got the first and only win for the state of Mississippi through two days of the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at the Hump Tournament Thursday.
Aberdeen (9-4) was able to play a deliberate, slow and uniquely unselfish brand of basketball in a 45-41 victory over Lanett (Ala.) High School in the second game at the Humphrey Coliseum. The Bulldogs first seven baskets were scored by six different players as the Bulldogs closed the opening quarter on a 7-0 run to maintain a lead throughout the entire 32 minutes.
"What I'll say is a game like this really allows me to believe that our kids are buying into what we're preaching to them every single day and that's so rewarding as a coach," Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle said.
"They are unselfish and they listen and that does make this group a pleasure to be around and coach."
Aberdeen, who qualified for the Class 4A state semifinals in Jackson last year, lost six seniors from the 2011-12 team that won 26 games for what was supposed to be Hazzle's final season on the bench.
However, Hazzle has returned with a core group from that team that the players happily admit could have one of five different leading scorers on any given game.
On Thursday it was guard Marcus Carothers who found the scoring touch with a team-high 16 points as the sophomore starter scored 13 in the second half. Carothers did most of his damage on dribble penetration inside the lane as Lanett attempted to trap the Bulldogs' slow-down offensive pace.
"We don't care who gets the points, credit or anything like that," Aberdeen senior center Brandon Hodges said. "We found out that Marcus was hot so we got him the ball and let him create. If it works, why stop?"
Hodges, was the starting center on the team last year, finished with four points and was key to limiting Lanett's interior offense and rebounding throughout the afternoon.
"I really think we have the kind of group in that locker room to get back to Jackson," Hodges said. "We play as a team, we play and really have fun playing together every day and that's what our coaches preach to us all the time."
An 8-0 run to start the second half turned a tenious one-point halftime lead into a situation where Panthers coach Richard Carter was forced to call a quick timeout. Lanett (10-3) came into the holiday event on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville ranked as the No. 6 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 2A poll.
The Panthers were led by a game-high 19 points by guard Justice Jackson. Jackson ended two games in Starkville with a combined 28 points after being key to 51-40 victory over New Hope Wednesday.
With over six minutes left in the game, Hazzle had enough confidence in his team to call for the four corners stall attack offense with the Bulldogs only up three. The tactic not only drained the game clock but created two easy buckets for Catothers and senior guard Kenric McCoy.
Dedric and Keelon Jr. Lawson led Hamilton High School, a historically prestigous high school for basketball talent in Memphis, to a 63-56 victory over the host Starkville Yellow Jackets in the final game of Thursday's round.
"What impresses me the most about the two of them is their basketball IQ shouldn't be this high as a freshman and sophomore in high school," Hamilton coach Fredric Stringer said. "I'm just priviledged and lucky that I get to coach both of them because I know this time will go by fast."
Dedric and his older brother Keelon Jr., Lawson are both highly regarded talents in the Memphis area after being coached their entire lives by their father Keelon Sr., who is now an assistant at Hamilton.
Dedric Lawson led all scorers with 24 points as the 6-foot-8 freshman showed both an inside and outside game against Starkville's zone defenses.
"I think it was just exciting to play on a Southeastern Conference home court and be seen by a lot of coaches," Dedric Lawson said. "I'm sure but I think I just got an offer from Mississippi State by coming here so everything has been great."
Starkville (4-7), which has had trouble finding offensive success this season, was confident with the ball against Hamilton's full-court trap and their scrappy nature of crashing the boards led to the Jackets being able to keep the game within reach for most of the evening.
"We are looking for improvement every day and I think we saw that today so that's a step in the right direction," Starkville coach Greg Carter said. "We are taking baby steps but we need to start taking giant leaps forward."
The Jackets were led by the production of Avonte Amos' 16 points and Zeb Rice's 11.
Keelon Lawson Jr., who transferred from Memphis East to be able to play with his little brother had 15 points and several eye-opening passes to Dedric including one for an impressive alley-oop dunk.
"I think we've just played so much together that we always know where we are on the court at all times," Keelon Lawson Jr.. said. "That's why I'd really prefer us play at the next level together too if that works out."
Both Lawson brothers have received heavy recruiting attention already from the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis for their future services. After the viewing the victory, MSU men's basketball assistant coach Wes Flanigan exchanged contact information with the Hamilton coaches.
The Trojans (7-7) saw the guard connect on four three-point baskets that seemed to be further behind the arc than the last one. Gaines led his Patriots team with a game-high 18 points in a 67-53 victory in the first game of the second day of the event.
"He's our shooter and it doesn't take very long to scout us to know that and what we are trying to do offensively," Midfield coach Darrell Barber said. "We have played six games in six days so we really needed him to come off the bench and provide that spark for our team because I know this stretch is tiring."
The 5-foot-9 junior guard came off the bench to provide 14 of his points production in the second period.
"Sometimes I don't even know where I am on the court but if I square my shoulders to the basket and shoot, it normally goes in," Gaines said. "Most of the time I try to not look down and see how far away I am from the hoop because I'm just in that zone."
New Hope's sophomore guard Jaylon Bardley led the Trojans with 13 points and his senior backcourt partner Chris Mosley was the only other player with double figures with 11.
It was a 14-0 run in the third quarter by the Trojans that got the deficit to just four points but New Hope couldn't manage to ever take the lead the entire afternoon against a composed Midfield squad that defeated Starkville 41-25 Wednesday.
"They did a really good job of running (Gaines) off multiple screens and forcing our guys to beat two or three different picks to find him," New Hope coach Drew McBrayer said. "Anytime we didn't fight through that screen over the top perfectly, he got a good look and drained it."