By Darron Thomas
The AA South State Tournament concluded last night in Gallman, Mississippi with Bowling Green winning the boys championship and Oak Forest capturing the girls. Both District 5AA squads will enter next week’s state tournament in Brookhaven as #1 seeds.
It was this time one year ago that Bowling Green and Trinity faced each other for the AA South State Championship in Columbia, Mississippi. In that contest the Trinity Saints would deal Bowling Green their first loss of the season in a bitter 50-38 defeat. The Buccaneers graduated all five starters from last season’s 33-3 team and many questions would arise as to how well Bowling Green would compete this season. That question was answered last night in Gallman as Bowling Green overcame a 25-21 halftime deficit to beat the Trinity Saints 63-57 to claim their first AA South State Championship since 1998.
Bowling Green started the contest with two quick baskets, one on a Dean King lay-in and the second on a Shod Fortenberry 12 foot jumper with 6:44 left in the opening quarter. The pace then slowed as both teams combined for only nine points to finish out the first quarter with Bowling Green up 9-4.
Trinity would grab their first lead of the game at the 5:00 mark of the second quarter at 12-11 on a Giovonni Dent 8 foot floater. With Trinity up 14-13 and 4:36 left in the half a Shod Fortenberry offensive rebound and basket put Bowling Green back on top at 15-14 which would set up maybe the most memorable basket of the tournament. On Trinity’s next possession Bowling Green junior Jaron Edwards got his hands on a Trinity turnover and threw down a monstrous dunk that caused the crowd to erupt and gave the Buccaneers a 17-14 lead. What seemed to be a huge momentum shift soon fizzled as Trinity showed why they’ve been ranked in the top 5 all season long. The Saints finished the quarter, which had five lead changes, on an impressive 11-4 run sparked by Jackson Bryant’s six points to give Trinity a 25-21 halftime advantage over Bowling Green.
(Below) Bowling Green's Shod Fortenberry (#20) defends against Trinity's Andrew Johnson (#23)
A Jaron Edwards assist to Shod Fortenberry for a bucket started out the fourth quarter and an Edwards 10 foot floater gave Bowling Green their biggest lead of the game at 49-40 with 6:20 left. RJ Fleming’s 3-pointer brought Trinity back to within seven at 55-48, and after two Jaron Edwards free throws, Brandon Daggs would drain a 3-pointer from twenty three feet as Trinity pulled to 57-51 with 2:43 left in the game. That lead shrunk to four at 57-53 on an Andrew Johnson offensive rebound and basket following a Bowling Green turnover. Shod Fortenberry would convert on one of two free throws to put the Bucs up 58-53 with 1:59 left and on Trinity’s next possession Bowling Green fouled Giovonni Dent who canned two free throws to pull the Saints to within three at 58-55 with 1:47 left in the game. Dylan Varnado made one of two free throws and Trinity center Andrew Johnson pulled down an offensive rebound and scored to get the Saints to within two at 59-57 with 1:22 remaining. Bowling Green’s Blake McGehee and Andrew Wood would sink four free throws in the final minute to preserve the 63-57 championship win.
“It was a great win for us tonight” said Bowling Green head coach Pat King. “It means a lot to our program and it’s the first South State Championship for Bowling Green since 1998. Tonight we had some great individual performances but it was a total team win. I pray that with this win our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be exalted.”
Bowling Green got a game high 26 points from junior Shod Fortenberry. Jaron Edwards added 17, Blake McGehee had 15, Andrew Wood and Dean King had 2 each, and Dylan Varnado 1.
Trinity was led by RJ Fleming, Brandon Daggs, and Giovonni Dent with 13 each, Andrew Johnson added 10, Jackson Bryant 6, and Bryant Pearson 2.
Bowling Green will move into the top spot in the AA rankings with a 28-5 record and will be matched up against Marshall next week at the state tournament in Brookhaven. Marshall is the #4 seed from the north.
Trinity, 28-8 and the #2 seed from the south, will be paired up next week with the #3 seed from the north, Lee Academy.
In the girl’s championship contest yesterday the Brookhaven Lady Cougars were pitted up against the Oak Forest Lady Jackets to determine the AA South State Championship and the #1 seed heading into next week’s state tournament in Brookhaven. Brookhaven entered yesterday’s game on a 22 game winning streak and a 33-4 record. Oak Forest went in fresh off winning the District 5AA Tournament after posting a perfect 10-0 regular season district mark. The last time these two squads were paired up was in the Brookhaven Christmas Tournament championship game in which Brookhaven edged out a two point victory over the Lady Jackets. Yesterday’s title game would prove to be just as exciting as Oak Forest erased a Brookhaven seven point second half lead to win the AA South State Championship 43-42.
In a first quarter that would be indicative of the entire game neither team could gain separation from the other as Brookhaven grabbed a 7-4 lead on an Anna Mangold feed to Laura Beth Wright with 3:37 to go in the opening quarter. Oak Forest Lady Jacket Cassie Bennett responded with two of her six points in the quarter on a 12 footer to pull to within one at 7-6. The quarter ended with Brookhaven holding a narrow 11-10 advantage.
The second quarter proved to be a defensive battle as neither team was able to mount an offensive run. Brookhaven did go up 16-10 in the quarter on two Laura Beth Wright free throws with 4:57 remaining until halftime. A Lauren Brumfield 3-pointer followed by a Brittani Roy bucket pulled the deficit back to one at 16-15 with 2:51 to go. Brookhaven increased the lead at 19-15 but Jessica McClendon would nail a basket with 14 seconds left to keep the Lady Jackets close at 19-17 as the half ended.
In the third quarter Oak Forest would take their first lead since 2-0 on a Lauren Brumfield 3-pointer to put the Lady Jackets up 22-20 at the 5:34 mark. A Cassie Bennett 17 footer from the baseline gave Oak Forest their biggest lead at 24-20 but Anna Mangold would throw in a bucket and free throw to start a Brookhaven 11-0 run to give the Lady Cougars a 31-24 lead with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter. With the momentum having swung Brookhaven’s way Oak Forest was able to get a little back as they canned two baskets, one from Cassie Bennett and another from Ashlyn Neal on an inbounds play, to end the third quarter trailing only 31-28.
(Below) Cassie Bennett of Oak Forest with two of her 16 points
Oak Forest stayed within striking distance early on in the final quarter, and following a Brookhaven turnover, Lindsey Oliver made one of two free throws to knot things up at 34-34 with just over five minutes left in the game. Brookhaven added a free throw to go back up by one at 35-34 and with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter Oak Forest senior Cassie Bennett garnered her fourth personal foul. Nicole Smith canned one of two free throws to put Brookhaven up 36-34. Both teams traded baskets and, with 2:46 remaining in the game, Ashlyn Neal rebounded an Anna Mongold miss. An Oak Forest timeout at 1:51 would set the stage for the biggest shot of the game. Lauren Brumfield’s 3-pointer with 1:35 left in the game put Oak Forest on top 41-38. Cassie Bennett would foul out with 1:16 left putting Nicole Smith at the line. The senior canned both free throws to pull the Lady Cougars to within one point at 41-40. Oak Forest would get their next basket from Bennett’s replacement. Senior Marissa Cannon would get free under the basket to score the biggest two points of her life with 1:07 left to put Oak Forest up 43-40. A Brookhaven turnover with 55 seconds left seemed to have signaled an end to the game but an Oak Forest missed jump shot from 12 feet gave the Lady Cougars new life. Brookhaven freshman Laura Beth Wright calmly nailed a basket with 27 seconds left to cut the margin to 43-42. Oak Forest was put at the free throw line with 8 seconds remaining but missed the front end of a one and one. Brookhaven was then fouled with 2.6 seconds left in the contest but they too missed the front end of a one and one.
Oak Forest took a hard fought 43-42 AA South State Championship win. “Our seniors really stepped up defensively in the fourth quarter” said Oak Forest head coach Jody Fekete. “We kind of feel like we have a monkey off our backs now in winning south state and it should give us some momentum heading into next week’s state tournament.”
Anna Mangold led Brookhaven with 14 points, Laura Beth Wright added 11, Nicole Smith 7, Marion Allen and Terah Winborne 4 each, and Anna Lofton 2.
Oak Forest improves to 32-3 and will play Manchester (#4 seed from the north) at next week’s state tournament.
(Above) Trinity's RJ Fleming surveys the Bowling Green defense(Above) Brookhaven's Nicole Smith with a 3-point attempt
Hats of to the folks at Copiah Academy. They did an outstanding job and made everyone feel welcomed. I made 20 of the 24 games played at the tournament so, needless to say, I'm a bit worn down. But I'll will be juiced back up come Tuesday as the state tourney gets underway at Brookhaven. It will be fun to see and cover the teams from the north next week. If you see me come say hello and lets talk basketball.