Mary Persons basketball is on a 3-game winning streak after defeating rivals Jackson Red Devils 75-65 and the Howard Huskies 52-50 this past week. A lot of the Dogs’ recent success can be attributed to returning senior Jaboree Goodson, who resumed play last week after taking several months off to heal from a hand injury sustained during football. Both games came down to the wire with head coach Greg Nix having to resort to unusual tactics to come out victorious.
Like with many of their recent games, Mary Persons was ahead the first half of the Jackson matchup, leading 39 -24 going into halftime. The Devils came back with a lot of energy in the third, taking back 5 points. Then in the fourth, things really went south, with Jackson scoring 21 points to MP’s 12.
“Jackson really gave us a hard time in the second half with their full court press”, says Nix. “They came back and took the lead. Then in the final seconds, Alex Brown hit a 10-foot shot at the buzzer, scored a three and sent us into overtime.”
During overtime, Mary Persons was able to take the game back over and wound up winning by 10. The top shooters in the game were Alex Brown with 22 points, Jaboree Goodson with 19 and Lamont Jones with 10.
“We played really well the first half. Jackson is a good team. They pressed up and did what they needed to do to get back in. I was really proud of the way our players stayed in it mentally to take the game into overtime and win. The Jackson game is a huge win because it was away, and it was a region game. Anytime you get a win on the road, it’s good.”
The Dogs then hosted 0-7 Howard at the J.P. Evans Gym less than 18 hours later, in a matchup that nearly became a surprise upset.
“It was a game of struggles throughout. I had hoped that we would carry our energy and enthusiasm over into that game and we did not.”
The Dogs led 25-20 at the half. But MP came out sloppy to start the third quarter and suddenly Howard had taken a 29-25 lead.
Nix wasn’t satisfied with his starters’ performance so he benched all five starters and put in Mary Persons’ green team. Freshman Ty Dumas then ripped off six points and led MP to regaining the lead.
“Our starters were tired mentally and physically from the Jackson game the night before. I put in our green team to see if they could get us going and they did. They bumped our lead up to seven points.” The players in the green squad include Dawson Niblett, Johona Braswell, Eric Jarrell, Antonio Palmer and freshman Ty Dumas. Nix says he regularly plays all of them in the rotation, but only rarely in his coaching career has he taken five starters out and put in five new players.
“The starters weren’t getting anything done, so I took them all out. Sometimes when you do that, it brings a new kind of energy. The green squad started executing what we had been trying to execute against their zone. It was a risky maneuver, but it paid off. I’ve used it a few times throughout the years. When the five you have in aren’t there mentally or physically, you have to do something extreme like that.”
Things again started to turn sour in the fourth for the Dogs. The Huskies took the lead and outscored MP 19-15. The Dogs trailed 50-49 with six seconds left when Goodson was fouled. He hit both free throws to give MP a 51-50 lead. Then Goodson stole the ball and was fouled. He made one free throw and the Bulldogs held on for the 52-50 win.
“It did not look good the last minute and a half. It’s a credit to our players tenacity that they found a way to win it. Howard plays in region AAAA and they’re big. They had three guys that I know are 6’4 – 6’5 and strong. They’re only 15 minutes down the road so it’s a competitive rivalry. Every matchup we have against them is going to be close.”
The Dogs faced Americus Sumter on Tuesday, Jan. 12, the number one team in Region 4-AAA, with results unavailable as of press time. Mary Persons next games will be at home against Peach County, another region competitor, on Friday, Jan. 15 at 7:30pm, followed by Tattnall Square Academy the following afternoon at 3pm. The matchup on the Friday will be Mary Persons second encounter with Peach this season. In their first game on Dec. 1, Peach County won 74-52, but Nix emphasized that this will be the first time the Dogs have faced Peach with all their players.
“We played them the first time with six guys and still held our own. I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet. From a mental standpoint, coming off three wins should boost the guys’ morale. We’ve got to come into these region games ready to compete.” Mary Persons is currently 6-4 overall and 3-1 in region play.