Even though Mary Persons trailed going into halftime and into the second half, it was never truly out of the game Friday in the first round of the GHSA Class 4A playoffs against Eastside. The Bulldogs hung tough, staying close enough to sniff the lead and be within close shot of it, coming up with enough offensive answers to match the Eagles’ sharp-shooting Keiodre Perry, who had 46 points.
The grit of Mary Persons (18-9) paid off the final minutes. Cam Holden’s clutch 3-pointer with less than 15 seconds and an advantage-padding layup off a steal by Clay Moore were just enough for the Bulldogs to get a first-round tournament win over Friday, beating Eastside 81-77.
Three who mattered
Holden: Holden may have only had two 3-pointers against Eastside, but his shot from the top of the key with less than 15 seconds left on the clock was good for a go-ahead 77-76 lead. Holden finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
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Perry: Tournament play can at times be tailor made for a hot shooter, and that was the case for Perry on Friday. It wasn’t a matter of if he was going to rack up a number points, but how much he was going to do it. All told, he had six-3-pointers. And one of those nearly crushed the emotions of the Mary Persons side of the court. With Mary Persons up 74-70 with 25 seconds to go, the Bulldogs were on the edge of wrapping up a win. But Perry drained a shot from behind the 3-point line and drew a foul. After he had a free throw, the game was tied, setting up Holden’s heroics.
Clay Moore: He had 20 points and his willingness to drive the lane was a key for Mary Persons on the offensive end. But his biggest play may have been one that didn’t show up in the stat sheet. He drew his only offensive charge of the season in the second half, according to Mary Persons head coach Greg Nix. That willingness to be physically sent a message that appeared to resonate with the entire Bulldogs bench about how determined they would be to find a way to win on Friday.
A game of runs: One big scoring run by one side was answered by the other in the first half. Eastside pounced on Mary Persons bogging down offensively to go on an 18-1 run in the second quarter, holding the Bullodgs without a field goal for more than four minutes. It all resulted in a 33-19 Eagles lead. But Mary Persons collected itself. Settling down offensively and not rushing offensive possessions, the Bulldogs shot selection improved and they drew fouls in the paint. A big 3-pointer by Tre Edge cut the Eagles lead to 35-30, and a single free throw made it a 35-31 disadvantage going into halftime.
Benefits of charity: One reason that Mary Persons was able to cut into Eastside’s lead and stay close came at the foul line. Patience on offense, which included taking the ball inside, drew Eastside fouls, and the Bulldogs benefitted from the chance to gain points, going 14-of-20 from the free-throw line.
Balanced effort: The Bulldogs had a total of four players in double figures with Rekia Weaver and Tre Edge each having 11 points.
They said it
Nix on the comeback from trailing in the first half: “I felt like after we got over not playing so well, we started playing together and playing for each other and playing for Mary Persons. I felt like we did what needed to do to get back in the game and from there, starting playing together offensively and defensively.”
Nix on the senior leadership: “Our seniors didn’t want this to be their last game, and I think the rest of our team fed off of that.”
Moore on what it was like with Perry scoring so many points for Eastside: “With him shooting it, it was hard to stay in the game as a team. It’s just great to be able to get a win like that against a guy like him.”
Moore on going to the Round of 16 for the second year in a row: “It feels good to go to the Sweet 16 two years in a row and win as much as we have.”
Holden on Moore’s play: “Clay sacrificed his body, he took a big-time charge. That swung the game around. That showed that, ‘hey we’re ready. Let’s get ready to play.’”
Holden on getting a chance for the go-ahead shot: “My teammates set me up for that one shot and gave me a chance.”
Mary Persons plays at St. Pius in the second round either Wednesday or Thursday.