The Mary Persons boys basketball team dropped below .500 for the first time this season with a 59-52 non-region loss at Jackson on Saturday.
Looking to avenge a two-point loss to the Red Devils on Dec. 14, the Bulldogs raced out to a 20-9 lead through one quarter. However, Jackson outscored MP 16-4 in the second quarter to take a one-point halftime lead at 25-24. The Red Devils further extended their advantage in the third quarter, taking a five-point edge at 42-37 heading into the final period. Jackson then outpointed MP 17-15 in the fourth quarter for the seven-point final margin. D’Vonte Evans was one of four Red Devils’ players who scored in double figures, leading the way with 14 points.
Saturday’s loss was MP’s fifth straight and 10th out of 11 games, dropping the Bulldogs to 11-12 overall (3-5 in Region 2-AAAA) with two games remaining in the regular season.
One night earlier, on Friday, the Bulldogs were hammered 94-61 by region leader Upson-Lee in their first home game in more than three weeks.
Despite missing their first five free throws and not making a field goal until more than five minutes into the game, MP clung to an early 6-5 lead on a three-pointer by Maurice Shannon. Shannon scored nine points in all in the first quarter as MP took a 12-11 lead through one period. As MP’s Ty Bouie scored seven straight points, MP and Upson Lee remained tied at 22-all until Shannon picked up his fourth foul halfway through the second quarter. MP’s Dee Morton connected on a three-pointer to put the Bulldogs ahead 25-22 right after Shannon left the game, but Upson-Lee answered with an 11-0 run to take an eight-point edge at 33-25. Then, with just under one minute left in the first half, MP head coach Greg Nix was ejected after picking up a pair of technical fouls. Nix was incensed that after Upson-Lee picked up the first five fouls of the game, MP was whistled for 14 of the next 16. By the time the Knights finished shooting the technical free throws, they led by 13 at 40-27 and took a 15-point edge at 42-27 into halftime.
With Nix sentenced to the locker room in the second half, it was all Upson-Lee. The Knights’ Malik Smith provided the game’s top highlight with a fast-break dunk off a steal midway through the third quarter to put Upson-Lee up by 17. By the end of the third quarter, the Knights led by 27 at 70-43 and eventually won by 33.
Bouie led MP with 19 points. He was joined in double figures by teammate Morton, who scored 12. Upson-Lee’s Jalen Ausbrooks led all scorers with 24 points. He was joined in double figures by Smith with 17 and Demeke Colbert with 13.
Nix said he has written on a board in the locker room the date Feb. 13, 2015, which was the last time MP defeated Upson-Lee, the 2017 and 2018 state champion. Nix said he was hoping Friday night would be the time MP ended an ugly run against the Knights.
“The thing about it is enough’s enough,” Nix said. “Enough’s enough. If you’re a player and you’re a competitor, why don’t you want to go out and fight and scratch and claw and end it? And if nothing else, let’s win the game because we can put ourselves in a better position for the region tournament. We’re just kind of going through a bad stretch right here. Whenever you lose your confidence, it’s hard to get it back.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, MP fell 79-74 at region rival West Laurens to drop below .500 in region play for the first time in 2019-20. The Bulldogs again sprinted out to an early lead, taking a 14-point advantage through one period at 31-17. However, West Laurens cut its deficit in half to seven at 46-39 at halftime. The Raiders then went ahead by three through three quarters, outscoring MP 23-13 in the third period for a 62-59 edge. Like the Jackson game, however, West Laurens outpointed MP 17-15 in the fourth quarter for the five-point win. Four Red Raiders’ players scored in double figures, including DeMondre Floyd and Jaric Williams, who each scored a team-high 20 points.
MP was next scheduled to host region foe Perry at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Nix was slated to miss the Perry game while serving the second game of a mandatory two-game suspension for Friday’s ejection. The Bulldogs will then host region rival Howard in their final regular season game at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. MP’s seven seniors, Ty Bouie, Tra Jones, JaQuavious Morgan, Dee Morton, Maurice Shannon, Derrick Smith and Dennis Swain, will be honored prior to Friday’s contest.
MP will then compete in the Region 2-AAAA Tournament at Howard, starting on Monday, Feb. 3 and running through Friday, Feb. 7.