Thursday, February 17, 2005

Patriots advance to State

The Marshall Academy Patriots, riding the enthusiasm of the home crowd, beat one team in the state’s top five and almost shocked another in the North AA Tournament last week.

They took the second-place trophy and were scheduled to open play in the State Tournament at Brookhaven on Tuesday night of this week.

“I thought we played our hearts out last week,” said head coach Keith Taylor. “I am so proud of the guys. They came together as a team.

“It was a great atmosphere. I appreciate our fans. The student body (most wearing Keith’s Krazies t-shirts) was great.”

The heart-stopping win came in the semi-finals on Friday – 65-62 over Winston, which entered 25-2 and ranked third in the Clarion-Ledger’s Mississippi Private School Association AA poll.

John David Sanders sank the clutch shot – a three-pointer from the corner with 26 seconds left to give the Patriots a five-point lead.

“That was huge,” Taylor said. “It turned out to be the difference in the ball game. He had an open look and then two guys converged on him. It shows you the type shooter he is. He and Robby (Autry) were in a zone all night.”

Sanders and Autry sparked the offense with 20 and 19 points, respectively. Sanders hit six three-pointers, while Autry steadily drove to the basket for most of his scores.

Thomas Carlisle added 10 points and five rebounds. Thomas Rodgers had nine points and eight rebounds.

Will Forester, who hurt his elbow in the game, dished out six assists.

“I thought it was one of the best defensive efforts we’ve had all year, too,” Taylor said.

He said his team enjoyed a 13-point lead (34-21) at halftime largely due to the defense and rebounding of Rodgers and Carlisle.

That win came after a 61-49 whipping of East Rankin in round one on Tuesday of last week.

Sanders was the hot man on this day, too. He poured in 19 points, including five “threes.”

But lots of others contributed. The other leaders were Boyce Hollingsworth with 10 points and seven rebounds,Carlisle with nine points and a team-best 11 rebounds, Autry with nine points and six rebounds, and Rodgers and Steven Gresham with 10 and seven rebounds, respectively.

The Patriots were on top 17-12 after one quarter, 36-27 at the half and 54-38 following three quarters.

In the championship contest Saturday night before a packed house, the second-seeded Patriots led top-seeded Clarksdale Lee most of the way before falling 50-44.

Lee entered 26-2 and ranked second in the state in AA. The Colts had already beaten Marshall three times this season, by 17 points, 10 and three.

“Our spirits were high, even after the loss,” Taylor said. “Lee is one team that just has our number. I don’t think they’re better personnel-wise. I hate it for our kids. They deserved to win.”

Marshall led 23-17 at the half and 39-36 after three periods.

The fourth period proved costly. The Colts outscored the Patriots 14-5.

“We were in position to win the game,” he said.

Three Patriots scored 11 points each – Forester, Autry and Rodgers. Rodgers led in rebounding with nine.

“We did a good job in the first half in our zone defense,” Taylor said. “We executed well on defense, and offensively we played pretty good. We should have taken the ball to the goal more.”

Named to the All-Tournament Team from Marshall Academy were Autry, Sanders and Rodgers.

Winston beat Leake in the consolation game. Both of those teams, along with Lee and Marshall, move on to State.

State Tournament

Taylor said he hopes the momentum and outstanding team play carries over into the State Tournament this week. The Patriots, with a 22-12 record, faced Prairie View Academy, the third seed from the South on Tuesday night of this week. With a loss, the season is over. With a win, they will face either Brookhaven Academy or Leake Academy in the semi-finals Friday night at 7:15 p.m. The consolation and championship games will be played Saturday at 6 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., respectively.

Taylor is taking a team to the State Tournament for the sixth straight year, the last two at Marshall.

The top four teams from the State Tournament advance to the Overall Tournament next week at Mississippi College in Clinton.

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