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Brandon sparks New Hope rally


Robert Gonzalez, Dispatch Sports Correspondent



It seemed to be in cards Tuesday night for the Hernando High School boys basketball team. 


Hernando got a career-high 24 points from senior point guard R.J. Robertson and led the New Hope Trojans late in the third quarter. 


That didn''t seem to phase New Hope junior guard Jonathan Brandon. 


Brandon''s 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer gave the Trojans the lead and the momentum en route to a 66-48 victory in the first round of the Class 4A North State Tournament. 


"We''ve said he''s ''instant offense'' already, but he''s a great defender, too," New Hope coach Robert Byrd said. "I really don''t know what else to say about him. He''s huge for us. He comes in off the bench and is a finisher. He finished this game and helped us win a game we didn''t play particularly well in." 


With the victory, New Hope (24-4), the No. 1 seed from Region 4, advances to play Yazoo City at 7 p.m. Thursday in Callaway. 


Hernando ends its season at 16-15. 


Brandon (game-high) 27 points also had four steals. 


Byrd said Brandon''s buzzer-beater was the turning point that coincided with another arrival that gave the Trojans a lift. 


"Right before he made that shot the entire baseball team came in," Byrd said. "After Brandon made the three to regain the lead it just really sparked the team. I really appreciate the support they gave us." 


New Hope took a 45-39 into the fourth quarter after trailing by one point at the 1-minute, 4-second mark of the third quarter. The Trojans used a 27-6 run to finish the game going away. 


"That was a tough stretch for us," Hernando coach Steven Cox said. "You go from one point up with a minute left to five down by quarter''s end. It definitely was tough for us, and we didn''t respond well." 


Cox also expressed frustration in how his team fell behind 10-0 midway through the first quarter. 


"It just didn''t click during a couple of long stretches tonight," Cox said. "We were too gun-shy early on and showed a lack of poise down the stretch." 


The Tigers rallied, however, connecting on eight consecutive shots to take a 16-12 lead early in the second quarter. 


New Hope led 36-31 at halftime. 


"Our guys thought the game was over when it was 10-0," Byrd said. "We cut it off for a while. That''s dangerous because you don''t know if you can cut it back on again." 


New Hope received solid contributions from Raymond Walters and Quinton Shirley, who each had 12 points. 


Bernard Jones had 14 points for Hernando. 




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