Thursday, December 1, 2005

MA wins one of two at FedEx Forum


It could have been a remake of the basketball movie “Hoosiers” last week at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.

Marshall Academy hosted the Marvell, Ark., girls and the Prairie View, La., boys in high school games at the 18,400-seat arena which is home to the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.

MA split, the Patriots winning 45-44 on a late free throw from Thomas Rodgers and the Lady Pats losing 50-25 to the top ranked team in Class A in the state, but the real story was the experience.

“I couldn’t help but think of the scene from ‘Hoosiers’ when Gene Hackman (who plays Coach Norman Dale) puts Ollie on Strap’s shoulders to show the goal is still 10-feet high,” said Craig Dailey, head coach of the Marshall boys.

In the movie, a very small school in Indiana goes to the state championship game, facing one of the largest schools in the state and wins. The players from Hickory are in awe when they first walk into the huge coliseum prior to the state title game. That’s when Coach Dale pulls out a measuring tape, only to have his players discover the goals are the same height as they are back home in their small gym.

“I think both teams (Marshall and Prairie View) came out a little ‘deer in the headlights’ from playing in such a big arena,” Dailey said.

The game was close throughout with MA enjoying the lead most of the way.

The Patriots led 14-10 after one period, 22-20 at the half and 33-28 following three quarters.

The Spartans took the lead late in the fourth, 44-42, setting up the dramatics with 12 seconds to go.

Rodgers took the pass inside the paint, was fouled but still scored to knot the score. Then he calmly scored the game-winning point from the charity stripe.

“A game ball would have to go to Thomas Rodgers,” Coach Dailey said. “He was a force down low (slowing down the Spartans’ big man in the second half), and he had ice water in his veins on that final free throw.”

John David Sanders was the top gun for the MA offense. He scored 15. Rodgers added 13, and Tyler Sanders contributed eight.

“It was a big-time win in a tough atmosphere against what will most likely be the number two team from the South (in AA),” Dailey said.

“Playing with the NBA three-point line cost us at least six points, but I’m sure they might say the same.

“John David (Sanders) is really learning how to pick and choose his scoring opportunities, and Tyler (Sanders) hit some big free throws and one huge shot from the top of the key (in the fourth).”

The Patriots improved to 7-2, while the Spartans suffered their first setback of the year to go to 7-1. Prairie View eliminated MA from last year’s state tournament.

The Marshall girls experienced the shell shock in the NBA arena. They hit just seven of 39 shots from the field in a 25-point setback.

“It was a good experience for the girls,” coach Keith Taylor said. “They were excited to be playing on the same floor as the Grizzlies, and it showed.

“Some of the girls who don’t miss layups, missed them. Obviously, they were nervous; they told me so.”

The MA girls were down 12-2 after one period, 29-4 at the half and 42-11 following three periods.

Lindsay Taylor’s eight points led Marshall. Samantha Cody added seven.

“You want to win every game, but under the circumstances, you understand you’ve got 15- and 16-year-old girls playing in the FedEx Forum,” said Coach Taylor, who saw his team’s record go to 11-6.

“It was great for our school. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted but it was the opportunity of a lifetime. And of course, Marvell is the number one ranked team in the state.”

The Lady Patriots lost to the Lady Eagles 55-41 earlier in the season at the Delta Tournament.

Tommy Gunn, Marshall Academy headmaster, called the afternoon games at the FedEx Forum “a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”

“It was a great experience for our athletes, our students and our fans,” Gunn said. “We appreciate the Grizzlies organization for allowing us to do it. We would like to make it an annual event.”

Gunn also served as public address announcer.

Coach Dailey also the thanked the fans for their support. The school had to sell 125 tickets and sold 241.

“All total, the three schools sold over 500 tickets,” he said.

“It is just a tremendous venue to play basketball, and an opportunity that few will ever get a chance to experience.

“It is hard to impress kids today, so we, myself included, spoil them too much. But I could tell the kids were a little awestruck, and that is what it is all about.”

Dailey said he “felt like a kid” himself and “Coach Gunn definitely found his second calling on the P.A.”

Marshall teams returned to action on Tuesday of this week at Westminster School. They go to North Delta Friday and travel to Tunica Saturday. Next Tuesday, Dec. 6, the Lady Patriots and Patriots host Kirk with games starting at 3:30 p.m.

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