Thursday, February 23, 2012
Patriots, Lady Lions win north
By BARRY BURLESON
The Marshall Academy Patriots had their picture taken with another first-place trophy Saturday night, this one North State after district the week before.
But they have hopes of bigger prizes.
“This was our third North State title in a row,” coach Craig Dailey said after a 70-55 win over Canton Academy. “That’s a huge testament to where we are as a program, but our sights are firmly set higher.
“We are going to take a day to rest (Sunday) and enjoy the ‘W’ and then get back to work Monday and get ready for Trinity,” he said.
The Patriots, ranked first in the state in Class AA and defending state champs, will meet the Saints Wednesday night at 7:45 in the first round of the state tournament at Kirk Academy in Grenada.
“There is no rest for the weary,” Dailey said. “We have three tough games to reach the medal podium again. It will be tough, but they don’t give rings away.”
The Patriots trailed the Panthers by three midway through the first quarter but led by as many as 22 in the fourth. They won by 15 and celebrated a North State title on the gym floor at North Delta School in Batesville.
MA grabbed its biggest first-half lead with 2:02 on the clock. Kevin Fitzpatrick led the fast break and made a behind-the-back assist to Brad Bennett for the lay-up. The lead was 40-23, and the Patriot fans went wild.
It was 43-27 at the break.
The Pats went up by 20 on Fitzpatrick’s steal and Bennett’s bucket with 5:44 to go in the third.
Canton sliced the deficit to 58-44 after three periods but the fourth was all Marshall.
Bennett blistered the nets for a game-high 26 points. Fitzpatrick followed with 16. Peyton Lewis had 10.
“Brad was unconscious,” Dailey said. “He has become a complete player. I am extremely proud of his evolution as a basketball player.
“They had no answer for Kevin. When he is playing at this level, our team is just in another gear on the offensive end.”
He also called it a “special team defensive night,” led by Chase Ferrell and Fitzpatrick.
MA improved its season record to 33-3. Bennett, Lewis, Ferrell and Fitzpatrick were named all-tournament.
The Patriots were in control throughout in Friday night’s semi-finals and steamrolled Leake Academy 81-59.
The Patriots started zero of five from three-point land, but when Lewis hit back-to-back ones late in the first quarter, the lead was 18-4.
MA led by 18 at the end of the period and 17 at the half.
The lead was 55-33 three minutes into the third. Leake cut it back to 14.
But the margin ballooned to 19 in the fourth when Lewis scored three straight buckets in a minute.
He led the offense with 22. Fitzpatrick had 17 and Bennett 15.
“Boy, they (the Rebels) are hard to guard,” Dailey said. “The Leake boys live in the gym, and it shows on the offensive end. But the difference between us and them on the other end was evident.
“Peyton’s skill set is perfectly made for this type zone and he took advantage of it. He seems to be stepping up to the level I know him capable of being.”
The Patriots got off to a slow start in a do-or-die state tournament game versus Central Hinds Wednesday of last week but pulled away in the second half for a 72-45 win.
“They were a tough matchup with their 6’7” post player and some athletic complimentary players,” Coach Dailey said. “The kids weathered a slow start and went off in the third.”
MA was up 27-17 at the midway point.
Dakota Dailey scored 13 points in the third and finished with 20.
“He exploded (in the third) and basically put them away,” his dad said.
Other Patriots scoring in double figures were Lewis with 11 and Fitzpatrick with 10. Bennett had nine and Ferrell eight. Ten Patriots scored.
“Kevin and Chase tore their zone up in the post, and Brad and Peyton got rolling from the perimeter,” Dailey said.
With a win Wednesday night over Trinity, the Patriots advance to the state semi-finals Friday at 6 p.m. versus the Central Private-Immanuel winner.
The consolation and championship games are set for Saturday at 6 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., respectively, in Grenada.
The top three teams from the state tournament advance to the Mississippi Private School Association Overall Tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton – seeking the biggest prize of all.
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