February 14, 2010 12:07:00 AM
David Miller -
SALTILLO -- A 14-point deficit couldn''t keep the New Hope Trojans from claiming their sixth-straight division championship Friday.
A a furious second-half rally propelled New Hope past Oxford 66-56 in the championship game of the MHSAA Class 5A, Division 2 Tournament.
The Trojans hit a low point in the second quarter when the Chargers extended their lead 30-18, but New Hope coach Drew McBrayer''s squad wasn''t about to throw a wrench in tradition.
New Hope forced Oxford out of its stifling 2-3 zone and once the Trojans forced the Chargers into man-defense, McBrayer felt like the pendulum swung his team''s way.
It certainly helped to have a pair of players take over in the third and fourth quarters.
Guard Raymond Walters scored six-straight points to help the Trojans reduce a 12-point deficit to four at the end the third quarter.
Walters then made a 3-pointer with 6:20 remaining in the fourth to give the Trojans a 48-47 lead, which they held onto for good.
Jamal Richardson closed the game by scoring on six-straight possessions to turn two-point leads into four-point leads against the rallying efforts of Oxford''s Brandon Rice, who scored seven of the Chargers'' last nine points.
"We''ve always been warriors," Walters said. "We''d get down in the game, but never get down on ourselves. We come back and fight. Coach (McBrayer) puts us in a situation every day in practice where we''re down and he''ll give us a couple of minutes to come back. He knows we can do it and we know we can do it."
Walters and Richardson each finished with 19 points, and Jonathan Brandon added 18 for New Hope, which hosts the play-in game for a trip to the Class 5A North Half tournament.
For now, the Trojans will enjoy clinching the Division 2 crown. They''ll also enjoy the fashion in which they got it done.
The key, McBrayer said, was getting the Chargers out of their 2-3 zone.
"We made some adjustments and went to it," McBrayer said. "I thought when we finally got them out of that zone and got them to go man, that was to our advantage. We were trying to do that the entire night, but we never had a lead and didn''t attack that goal well enough. When we did get the lead, that was to our advantage."
Against the man-defense, Richardson and Walters had their way in the lane and were able to answer the sharp shooting of Oxford''s Blake and Dee Wallace, who combined for 33 points.
The key during New Hope''s fourth-quarter surge was its play on both ends of the court. The Trojans forced six-straight Oxford misses while holding on to the lead and more importantly, closing the game down the stretch.
New Hope split the division series with Oxford and McBrayer referenced his team''s loss in Oxford in explaining his team''s ability to close crucial games.
"We''ve done it at times this year, closing close games down the stretch," McBrayer said." We''ve also lost some close games this season and lost one at Oxford when we could never get control up there. I thought when we finally got in control tonight and got the lead, they had to come out and chase us. That''s what we try to do and we closed this game like a championship team does.
"There''s a tradition here and this team didn''t want to be known for losing the district title."
n New Hope 42, West Point 40 (G): For the first time in 18 years, the New Hope Lady Trojans are division champions.
After recovering from a sluggish start, New Hope edged West Point to claim the Class 5A, Division 2 title and set up Monday''s Class 5A North State Tournament game against either Canton or Yazoo City at New Hope.
Kelli Petty and Kia Edmonds led the Lady Trojans with 13 points each, while center Rachel Hollivay finished with seven points and five blocked shots.
West Point was led by guard Kelsei Ewings'' 21 points and Kourtney Crowley''s 10.
Hollivay said the key to New Hope overcoming an eight-point halftime deficit and pulling out a win was by keeping its intensity.
"I feel when we play hard, there''s nobody who can beat us," Hollivay said. "If we keep playing as a team we''ll be unstoppable."
Still, hoisting a trophy ahead of a chance to get to the North Half is cause for celebration.
"Coach (Laura Lee Holman) is always on hard on us and when we win other games we can''t get excited," Hollivay said. "She said in February we''d have fun. The night before we had fun and tonight we''re still having fun."
The second half was nip-tuck, as the lead changed hands 10 times and neither team led by more than three points. In the final 14 minutes, neither team led by more than two.
West Point went ahead 38-37 after Wilma Davis followed up an Ewings miss with two minutes left in the game. Then, Hollivay came up with a steal and later finished at the other end with a strong drive to the basket and layup.
West Point head coach Jemmye Ann Helms called a timeout, only to see a pass to Yakira Edwards snagged by Edmonds who finished a fast-break layup despite a hard challenge.
New Hope''s 41-38 lead was short-lived, though, as Crowley converted on a short shot.
Petty made a free throw just before Ewings had the last two shots miss the bottom of the net for West Point.
For Holman, is was a wild finish en route to a division title.
"It got real scary just like the Oxford game did," Holman said. "At the end of it, our defense won that game for us. I couldn''t be prouder. We made some mistakes, but what I told them was the first team to give in would lose. I told them not to be that team and I feel like they stepped up to the challenge. I know they were tired -- I didn''t play a lot of subs. Those last couple of defensive stands to keep them from getting a shot inside and coming down with the rebounds -- you couldn''t ask for more as a coach."