Natchez boys, girls advance to tourney finals

Published 1:09 am Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NATCHEZ — The game plan for the Natchez High School boys basketball team was simple: out-hustle the opponent.

And in the second half, the Bulldogs stepped up the tempo and managed to get a comfortable lead, which they rode to an 82-68 victory over Jim Hill Tuesday night in the semifinals of the District 6-6A tournament.

Natchez assistant coach David Haywood said his team’s intensity made the difference tonight.

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“We played hard,” Haywood said. “Sometimes we need to put out a little more though with our effort, but we played hard and executed well.

“I told them to play harder than the other team tonight, and I think we did that.”

The Bulldogs got out to an early 20-13 lead after the first quarter, and carried the momentum into the second quarter. In the first three minutes of the second, Natchez went on a 10-3 run, giving it a 30-16 lead with 4:59 to go before intermission.

Natchez hit a scoring snag, however, and couldn’t hit a basket for the next three-and-a-half minutes of play. Jim Hill, meanwhile, scored 11 unanswered points, cutting the Bulldog lead to 30-27 with 2:07 to go before halftime.

“We just ran into a bit of a dead area,” Haywood said. “I think our guys were sucking a little air from using up so much energy in the first quarter.”

A free throw by the Bulldogs’ Trevon Chatman got them back in a groove, and they went on to score six additional points while holding Jim Hill to just two, giving themselves a 37-29 lead after two.

In the second half, Jim Hill put up respectable numbers, scoring 16 points in the third quarter and 23 in the fourth. However, it had no answer for the Bulldogs offense, which remained one step ahead of Jim Hill’s, tallying 20 points in the third and 25 in the fourth.

“I tried to get my guys to play minutes by minute,” Haywood said. “I told them at the break we were down to just 16 minutes, and I told them to play hard for those 16. Then we got to the fourth, and it was just eight minutes to go. I told them to play hard for just eight more minutes.”

Natchez was led in scoring by Jeremy McMorris, who finished with 28 points, 16 of them in the second half. Trevon Chatman also had a big night, putting up 17 points. Brandon Holden added 15 points, and Kelli Puckett had 11.

For Jim Hill, Fred Thomas tallied 23 points. Jeremy Moore finished with 14 points.

With the first round out of the way, Natchez will turn its attention to undefeated Wingfield, which it will host Friday in the championship game of the tournament.

“As hard as we played tonight, we’re going to have to play three times as hard Friday,” Haywood said. “I’m giving a call-out to all our fans. They’re going to have to pack this gym, because we’re going to need every ounce of energy we can get. Wingfield is a good time, but I think it’s a game we can win.”

Natchez girls 59, Wingfield 48

The Lady Bulldogs also advanced to the finals, defeating Wingfield Tuesday evening.

Ashley Minor led Natchez with 15 points. Keosha Bradley had 13 points and Ricarla Shotwell tallied 11 points.

Lady Bulldogs coach Sue Johnson said he team was able to overcome tournament jitters in order to secure the win.

“I know we were nervous,” Johnson said. “You can’t tell children not to be nervous, when you have pros that are nervous (in these kinds of situations). Despite the mistakes, we came through, even though we made a lot.”

Natchez (14-10) will face Terry in the championship game Friday.