January 15, 2010 11:07:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- The Aberdeen High School Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs and West Point Lady Green Wave and Okolona Chieftains posted first-round wins Thursday to advance to Saturday''s championship games of the Aberdeen Invitational Tournament.
Aberdeen''s boys slipped past West Point 57-53 in the closest contest of the opening round, while the Lady Bulldogs beat West Lowndes 71-48 to assure the host teams a spot in the championship games.
The West Point girls grabbed a spot opposite Aberdeen in the finals by beating Okolona 72-38, and Okolona''s boys will face the Bulldogs in the boys'' final by virtue of an 80-57 win against West Lowndes.
The tournament schedule for Saturday features the girls and boys consolation games at 4 and 5:30 p.m., with the championship contests at 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Aberdeen coach Roy Hazzle''s Bulldogs outscored West Point 32-18 in the first (15-6) and third quarters (17-12), but the Green Wave outscored Aberdeen 35-25 in the second (18-14) and fourth periods (17-11) in what proved to be a much closer-than-expected contest.
Aberdeen''s nine-point first quarter advantage dropped to five (29-24) at halftime, but the Bulldogs five-point margin in the third quarter increased the spread to 46-36 entering the fourth period.
Trailing 55-47 with a minute left, West Point pulled to within 56-53 had possession with 23 seconds to play only to have Lakin Ford''s 3-pointer bounce off the rim. The Green Wave claimed the rebound, but a turnover with 11.1 seconds doomed the comeback bid.
"Free throws and turnovers killed us down the stretch," West Point coach Winston Varnado said. "The kids know it''s the little things that keep us from winning, and had we made our free throws and held on to the ball better, the final outcome might have been different."
Mario Lucas, who had a dozen markers at the half, paced the Bulldogs with a game-high 20 points. Fred Ward had 11, and Channing Ward (eight) and Anthony McDonald (seven) combined for 15 points.
"We couldn''t put them away because we got outhustled and our effort was lacking," Hazzle said. "Defensively, we didn''t play that badly, but we''ve got to develop better rhythm on offense and everybody''s got to be ready to play."
For West Point, Garry Hughes (14), Ford (13), Jaquille White (11), and Laquante Gaston (nine) accounted for 47 points.
n Aberdeen 71, West Lowndes 48 (G): The Lady Bulldogs built a 43-24 halftime lead and never looked back en route to beating the Lady Panthers.
The lead stretched to 66-32 at the end of the third quarter and the 34-point cushion enabled AHS coach Lattorence Bivens to give everyone on the bench playing time.
"This was one of those games where we got a chance to play everyone on our team," Bivens said. "Our starters got their share of playing time, as did their replacements."
Jameika Hoskins and Regina Barker led the way for the Lady Bulldogs with 17 points each. Sommer Burnett had eight of her 11 points in the first quarter.
Tyesha Knott scored 14 points and Corey Nevills had 10 for West Lowndes.
Former West Lowndes principal Roosevelt Bridges, filling in for Vermitra White as the team''s coach, said youth and inexperience contributed to the loss.
"We''re very young and this was only my second game to coach these girls," Bridges said. "They played hard, but Aberdeen is a veteran team with a lot of weapons."
n West Point 72, Okolona 38 (G): The game was close for a half, but a third-quarter meltdown took the Lady Chieftains out of contention.
A strong first period gave West Point a 17-8 lead early on, but Okolona pulled to 33-26 at the half only to be outscored 27-2 in a third period en route to a 72-38 victory.
West Point''s Kelsei Ewings had 16 of her game-high 28 points in the first half. Kourtney Crowley (16) and Kira Edwards (10) also finished in double digits for the winners.
Quinndella Ford led Okolona with 18 points, all of which came in the first half.
n Okolona 80, West Lowndes 57 (B): The Panthers led 18-16 after the first quarter, but the taller Chieftains outscored coach Herman Peters'' squad 18-6 in the second period and went on to the win.
Marques Conway and David Gardner, both of whom are in the 6-foot-6 range, scored 30 and 22 points, respectively, for Okolona.
Demetrius Malone paced West Lowndes with 23 points, and Tyquan Lucious finished with 18.