February 18, 2009
ABERDEEN -- The defending state Class 3A champion Aberdeen High School boys basketball team stayed on course to repeat last year''s run by defeating Amanda Elzy 64-58 Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs'' (19-10) returning players know what it takes to make the trip to Jackson.
Now they are one step closer.
Leading by two points at halftime, Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle challenged his team to reach deep within and to take control of the game in the second half.
Shedrick Davis (13 points) took his coach''s challenge to heart.
"Coach told us, ''If y''all want it, take it, and if you don''t, then you''ve got to just stay home,'' " Davis said. "We just didn''t want to lose, so we came out in the second half and played good basketball."
Amanda Elzy (17-12) took a 44-41 lead with 3 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter on a steal and layup by guard Jamond Klines.
The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter and the Bulldogs led 51-49 entering the fourth quarter.
Amanda Elzy''s speedy guard combination of Klines and Eric Davidson could not take advantage of numerous scoring opportunities at crucial points.
The Panthers traded baskets and the lead seesawed until the final two minutes.
Davis made two crucial free throws with 1:35 remaining to give the Bulldogs a six-point lead.
Aberdeen was 16-for-30 at the free-throw line.
Hazzle, recently named boys basketball Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations Coaches Association, was pleased with his team''s ability to contain Amanda Elzy at critical junctures.
"We had some good defensive stops," Hazzle said. "Down the stretch the guys stepped up and made free throws. We had key stops and played hard-nosed Bulldog basketball. We knew we had to do some things and play above what we''ve been playing. I told them at halftime we''ve got to do better."
Chris Devauld led Aberdeen with 18 points. Fred Ward had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Amanda Elzy coach Howard Brown lamented his team''s inability to make outside shots. He was pleased with the Panthers'' ability to drive but believed Aberdeen''s outside shooting was the difference.
"We can''t hit an outside shot," Brown said. "If you can''t make an outside shot they are going to pack it inside, and that''s what they did. Aberdeen has a good shooting ballclub. They like to run and they can hit the outside shot."
Klines had 19 points for Amanda Elzy. Davidson added nine and Jermaine Whitehead added eight.
Hazzle is optimistic about his team''s ability to compete in the next two games and move on to the state championship.
"We have taken the first step tonight," Hazzle said. "If we get by Thursday night''s game we will be in the position to do something we want to do: To go to Jackson and play to repeat as Class 3A state champs."
Aberdeen will play Byhalia at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Corinth in the North Half quarterfinals.