KATHLEEN -- After a pair of two-point losses to Veterans during the regular season, Mary Persons saved its best performance for last.
The Bulldogs blew away the Warhawks with hot shooting from outside for a 72-52 win in the opening round of the GHSA Region 2-AAAA tournament and a spot in the Class AAAA playoffs.
“The three-year plan was to be around .500, and we are 11-14, but the thing about it is that the games we’ve played this year we average 65 points per game and hold our opponents to 62,” Mary Persons head coach Greg Nix said. “This will help a lot, because when you start winning, it catches fire. This is big for us.”
Veterans had all the momentum early, building a 17-7 lead as the Bulldogs shot 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
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The cold shooting wouldn’t last. Mary Persons knocked down all six of its attempts from behind the 3-point line in the second quarter to key a 21-4 run that led to a seven-point halftime advantage.
The Bulldogs extended their lead with three more 3-pointers in the third to take a 12-point lead into the final eight quarter. Mary Persons made 11 3-pointers in this same gym just five days prior.
“We shot well here Friday night making 11-of-28 3s, so we felt confident shooting,” Nix said. “We had a good workout (Monday). I could just see the confidence in our players.”
Mary Persons blew the game open late in the fourth as Veterans were forced to pressure the ball. The Bulldogs, who were quicker to loose balls all night, converted bucket after bucket in transition to seal the win.
“They were playing man-to-man, and we were quicker getting to the basket,” Nix said. “When they went into press, it just helped our quickness that much more. We made a lot of layups.”
Not a single player scored off of the bench for the Bulldogs.
“My daddy was a high school basketball coach, and he always told me that in high school you should be able to win with six players,” Nix said. “In today’s basketball, that’s not usually what happens, and we’ve played our bench all year long, but in the last two or three games I’ve kind of cut that down.”
UPSON-LEE 77, HOWARD 74
Upson-Lee overcame a 10-point second half deficit and built a six-point lead in overtime to hold off an upset bid by the Huskies.
O’Qualon Harris’ 3-point bucket with one second to go in regulation extended the game for third-seeded Upson-Lee (17-7).
Sixth-seeded Howard’s season ends at 10-16.
WEST LAURENS 63, BALDWIN 47
West Laurens switched to a zone defense late in the third quarter and stifled the offensive attack of upset-minded Baldwin. The Raiders led by just two points headed into the final quarter.
De’Angelo Wilcher scored 32 points to lead West Laurens (20-6).
Eighth-seeded Baldwin sees its season comes to a close at 3-21.