February 17, 2010 8:32:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- A poor first quarter and an even worse fourth quarter, which was fueled by a sterling performance by Rashad Pargo, proved to be the undoing for M.S. Palmer here Tuesday, as the Aberdeen High School boys basketball team posted a 76-61 victory in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A North Half State Tournament.
"We allowed Aberdeen too many runouts and a lack of rebounding killed us," M.S. Palmer coach Henry Clay said. "If you don''t work the boards, you don''t get many second shots. We didn''t tonight and Aberdeen did."
Aberdeen coach Ray Hazzle wasn''t pleased with his team''s offensive and defensive effort early on, but he said the key at this time of the year is to make it to the next round.
"We didn''t execute our half-court offense and we got a little slack on defense when they (Palmer) beat us down the court," Hazzle said.
Hazzle said his deep bench played a crucial role..
"We''re blessed to have the luxury of being able to bring kids off the bench who can contribute," Hazzle said. "That gives our starters the chance to rest their legs, and that usually pays off for us down the stretch when fresh legs are so very important."
Down 6-5 thanks in part to an Xavier Watson 3-pointer midway through the opening quarter, Aberdeen (17-11) outscored M.S. Palmer 15-6 and raced to a 21-11 lead at the close of the first period. Mario Lucas held the hot hand in the opening stanza with three baskets and a pair of free throws, while Anthony McDonald (seven), Pargo (four), and Josh Holliday (two) accounted for the Bulldogs'' remaining points.
The Bulldogs stretched their advantage to 31-17 on a breakaway dunk by Lucas at the 3-minute, 12-second mark of the second quarter. But M.S. Palmer responded with a 15-4 tear behind the outside shooting of Terrell Emerson, Quinterra Ilion, and Neco Pugh -- all of whom hit 3-pointers -- to pull the Dragons (18-8) to within 35-32, only to have McDonald counter with a long-range basket to make it 38-32 at intermission.
Aberdeen increased its lead to 42-33 on baskets by McDonald and Channing Ward early in the third quarter, but Palmer posted a 13-7 scoring advantage down the stretch to pull within 49-46 entering the fourth quarter.
The final period, however, belonged to Aberdeen and it was Pargo, starting in place of an absent Fred Ward, who kick-started the Bulldogs to a 23-9 scoring spurt, which assured Hazzle''s squad a game Thursday against Ripley at Holly Springs.
Pargo scored two baskets, one on a putback of his own shot, in the first minute and then added a pair of free throws to make it 55-47. He also snatched four key rebounds, three of which came on the offensive end, and then capped his scoring antics with two more baskets to give Aberdeen a 66-51 lead with 2:40 to play.
Both teams played to a 10-10 standoff the remainder of the game, as Aberdeen bagged 10 of 12 free throws -- four by McDonald, three from Brandon Smith, two by Ward, and one from Johnny Wilson.
"Rashad (Pargo) did a great job rebounding offensively," Hazzle said. "He plays tough inside for his size and, after a shaky start at the free-throw line (0-for-4), he came through in the fourth quarter from the field and at the line."
McDonald led the Bulldogs with 21 points, while Pargo had 18, Ward added 12 and Lucas had 10.
Ilion, who is receiving some interest from Alcorn State, was high for M.S. Palmer with 14 points -- six below his average. Kentarvis Kuykendall and Lakendrick Conley each had 12 points, while Pugh and Watson each had eight.