Tra Jones

Tra Jones

The Mary Persons boys basketball team suffered just its second loss of the season on Saturday, falling 66-64 to non-region rival Jackson at home.

The Bulldogs, 7-2 overall (2-0 in Region 2-AAAA), led for much of the second half before the Red Devils finished the game on a 6-2 run to close out the road victory. Jackson’s Jye Roberts made a layup with 15 seconds left to break a 64-64 tie. MP then had two chances to win, but Ty Bouie and Maurice Shannon, respectively, missed three-point tries in the waning seconds with Shannon’s effort from the left corner bouncing off the back iron as the final buzzer sounded.

Jackson started the contest hot from the perimeter as three different Red Devils buried three-pointers en route to an 11-4 lead just over three minutes into the game. But back-to-back buckets by MP’s Amari Jefferson narrowed MP’s deficit to four at 17-13 through one period. Jackson would eventually stretch its lead back out to double figures at 29-19 with 3:50 left in the second quarter on consecutive three-pointers by Jackson’s D’Vonte Evans. However, the Bulldogs would answer with back-to-back treys by Bouie and Shannon, respectively, to trim Jackson’s edge to four at 31-27. Moments later, the Red Devils would head to the locker room with a four-point advantage at 33-29 after Bouie’s halfcourt heave at the buzzer rimmed out.

MP would take its first lead of the contest with 4:52 left in the third period when Bouie drove the left baseline and scored off the window while drawing a foul. The free throw put MP ahead 36-35. As Bouie continued to make big plays, adding two more foul shots and a layup, MP would sprint out to a seven-point advantage, its largest of the game, at 42-35. Jackson’s Roberts finally ended MP’s 13-2 third-quarter spurt with a triple, but Bouie responded with a trey of his own to put the Dogs’ in front 45-38.

But the Red Devils didn’t go quietly, ending the third quarter on an 11-6 run, capped by a halfcourt shot from the left sideline at the buzzer by Jackson’s Jamal Collier, who appeared to travel just prior to releasing the basketball. Since the apparent infraction went unnoticed by the referees, the shot trimmed the Red Devils’ deficit to just two at 51-49 heading into the final period.

Jackson cut MP’s lead to one at 54-53 with six minutes to play on a three-pointer by Tarik White, who scored all seven of his points in the final quarter. After a White free throw tied the game at 54-all, MP answered with back-to-back buckets, an offensive rebound putback by Adrian Hughley and a drive and dish from Bouie to Shannon for a layup, respectively, to give MP a four-point edge at 58-54. But Jackson wouldn’t go away, and moments later White scored on a fast-break layup to tie the game at 62-all. A Jackson steal then led to another layup, this one by Cameron Head with 1:33 to play, to put the Red Devils in front for the first time since midway through the third quarter at 64-62.

MP then converted its biggest basket of the game as center Lamont Jones took a post feed from Bouie, spun left and softly banked in a layup to tie the game at 64-all with one minute left. About 30 seconds later, Jackson head coach Virgil Amey, who coached MP during the 2011-12 season, signaled for a timeout to set up a potential game-winner. Roberts got the ball beyond the three-point line with 20 seconds to play. He saw an opening near the right elbow and darted to the basket, dropping the go-ahead layup with 15 seconds to go. After Bouie missed a three-pointer from the top of the key, MP reclaimed possession on a jump ball with 3.3 seconds to play. MP head coach Greg Nix drew up a play for Shannon, his top outside shooter, but Shannon appeared to fumble Bouie’s inbounds pass in the left corner, throwing off his rhythm. Shannon recovered just in time to throw up a high-arching shot at the buzzer, but his attempt missed wide left off the back iron, enabling Jackson to seize a dramatic comeback win.

Bouie led MP with 19 points while Shannon was the only other Bulldog in double figures with 14. Meanwhile, Collier led Jackson with 19 points. He was joined in double figures by teammates Roberts with 12 and Evans with 11.

Nix said MP’s loss was disappointing because they were “outhustled, outplayed and outrebounded.”

He said, “We’ve got to start rebounding. We talked about it at halftime. I felt like in the third quarter we kind of cut them off a little bit. And then it started happening again in the fourth quarter. And it’s just about want-to. And it’s not that we didn’t want to win. It’s just that some things like that come back to get you. We still had chances, and we just didn’t do it tonight.”

The tough loss came one night after MP improved to 7-1 with a non-region 75-53 road win at Tattnall Square. The Bulldogs took a commanding 15-4 lead through one quarter before a 23-18 advantage in the second quarter pushed MP’s lead at halftime to 16 at 38-22. A strong third period gave MP a 22-point edge at 57-35 through three quarters as the Dogs’ cruised to a comfortable 22-point final margin.

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Bulldogs achieved their most dramatic victory of the season with a 66-64 home win over non-region Northeast (Macon).

As MP clung to a two-point lead in the waning stages, Jefferson, playing in just his second game after recovering from an off-season kidney transplant, proved to be the hero. The junior center batted away a Raiders’ inbound pass from the right baseline as Northeast’s Zion Odoms skied for the potential game-winning alley-oop dunk with 1.2 seconds left.

Jefferson, who played every minute of the second half, said of the final play:  “I knew he (Odoms) was going to try and dunk it. He gave himself away. He pointed up in the air, and I knew at that moment I had to box out.”

Northeast took a 21-18 lead through one quarter with the biggest highlight coming on a one-hand jam in transition by Milandre Pettigrew. But despite MP’s Shannon being saddled for much of the first half with three fouls, the Bulldogs took a two-point lead at 35-33 at halftime.

With MP leading by five at 38-33 with 6:54 left in the third quarter, Shannon picked up his fourth foul on a strange call that appeared to have been a foul committed by his teammate, Alex Brown. With Shannon on the bench, Northeast finished the third period on a 14-7 run, capped by a driving layup by T.K. Hopkins, to put the Raiders ahead 47-45 through three quarters.

MP’s Bouie dropped a righty floater off glass for an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Dogs back in front 48-47 on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. However, Northeast later re-tied the contest at 55-all before MP’s Brown and Derrick Smith, respectively, hit back-to-back three pointers to put the Dogs’ in front 61-55 with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter.

But Northeast would fight right back, going on an 8-0 run, capped by a steal and a layup by Pettigrew to put the Raiders back in front 63-61. A Shannon basket tied the game at 63-all with 2:10 to play, and then Bouie shook off a series of misses at the charity stripe to bury the go-ahead free throw to put MP in the lead 64-63 with 1:47 left. Bouie then drove left baseline for a right-handed reverse finish off glass to put MP in front 66-63 with 51 seconds to go. A Northeast free throw trimmed MP’s lead to two before the Raiders missed a series of shots on their final possession, capped by Jefferson’s game-ending deflection to give MP a 66-64 win.

Bouie led the Dogs with 16 points. Brown, Shannon and Jefferson also reached double figures with 15, 14 and 10, respectively. Odoms led Northeast with 14 points while Brandon Watkins also finished in double figures with 12.

Nix said he was pleased that his role players stepped up in the absence of three key contributors, guard Dee Morton, who is sidelined for a month with a hand injury, and post players Tra Jones and Lamont Jones, who were serving one-game suspensions for chronic tardiness.

Nix said, “I wanted Alex to score a little more. I asked Ty to get back to his 20-point games. I asked A.J. to be able to play a little longer. I asked Adrian Hughley to play great defense and find a way to get six points. I asked Derrick Smith to come in and find a way to score five or six points. And then Maurice gets in foul trouble. I was real proud. Northeast is solid. They were 3-0 in their region, so they’re a pretty good team.”

While all of MP’s players were excited over the Northeast win, Jefferson, who scored a career-high 10 points in the win, was probably the most thrilled.

“It felt good,” Jefferson said. “The energy was great. It was just a good experience to get to play with my teammates again.”

The Bulldogs will next travel to Woodward Academy to compete in the War Eagle Classic Christmas tournament. MP will face Business Engineering Science Tech (B.E.S.T.) Academy at 1 p.m. on Friday before facing Stone Mountain at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday. MP will then host its own Christmas tournament, the MP Holiday Classic, starting on Friday, Dec. 27. The full schedule of the MP Holiday Classic, which ends on Monday, Dec. 30 will be in next week’s Reporter.