Rams fall in state tournament

Published 11:30 am Friday, February 17, 2023

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BENTON — The Tunica Academy Blue Devils rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to upset the Wilkinson County Christian Academy Rams 74-68 in double overtime in the boys’ quarterfinals of the 2023 MAIS Class 3A State Tournament at Benton Academy.

WCCA entered the state tournament as one of the hottest teams in all of Class 3A after getting off to a 1-13 start under new head coach Bryan Mudd against a brutal non-district schedule over the first two months of the season.

The Rams did lose in the Class 3A South State title game to Providence Classical Academy to end up as the South No. 2 seed. Meanwhile, Tunica Academy entered the state tournament as the North No. 3 seed and from the way the first half played out, it looked like the Rams were well on their way to an easy win.

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“Our Rams came out and felt like they were under-matched. The first two quarters, we played a good press defense. We ran a full-court press. We forced a bunch of turnovers and we were up 17 at the half,” Mudd said. “Came out of the locker overconfident. The other team basically did the same thing to us. The third quarter, they scored a bunch of points.”

Mudd noted that the Blue Devils scored about 25 points while holding the Rams to about 12 points to get back in the game. He added that Tunica Academy slowly cut down their lead and eventually forced overtime with the score tied at 63-all.

Both teams scored five points in the first overtime period to make it a 68-68 game and the game went into double overtime. The Blue Devils shut out the Rams 6-0 in that session to pull out the win.

“They were just aggressive. No fouls called,” Mudd said. “Their No. 3 and their No. 4, those two kids were the ones who did everything for them. The Rams never gave up. They never quit. The other team just caught up with us.”

Jacob Sessions led WCCA with 22 points while Jack Orgeron had 15 points and Ryan Fisher added 13 points. Napoleon Howard and Bryan Mudd’s son Nathan Mudd each finished with nine points.

Bryan Mudd said he asked to be the new head coach of the Rams after the stunning departure of Ken Perry, who coach Mudd said went to Kansas Christian School. He said his team played a bunch of Class 4A, 5A and 6A schools in the MAIS to get his team ready for district play. The only win between the season-opener and Jan. 9 was against Amite School Center.

And they did so with three key players going through ankle injuries — one of which occurred before the basketball season even started.

“Fisher had an ankle injury in football at the All-Star Game practice. Jacob and Nathan rolled their ankles during the season. We were playing with ninth- and 10th-graders the first 14 games,” coach Mudd said. “The Jan. 10 game, that’s when I had all my team. We didn’t lose again until the Silliman game and then we lost our last two games.”

The WCCA Lady Rams finished with an overall record with 11-16 and ran the table in District 4-3A, going 4-0 in district play.

In the biggest upset of the Class 3A State Tournament, the South No. 1 seed WCCA Lady Rams fell to the North No. 4 seed Newton Academy County Lady Generals 50-38 last Wednesday afternoon in the girls’ quarterfinals and saw their season come to an end. No other information on that game was available.