By Derrick Mahone
Ola coach Curt Miller held a practice Monday morning, hours before his team's first Region 4-AAAA tournament game to make a few adjustments.
It proved to be the right thing to do as the Mustangs cruised to a 69-53 win over Forest Park in the first round Monday at Mount Zion High. The win snapped a four-game losing streak by the Mustangs, who had swept the season series between the two teams.
Tim Mason scored a game-high 18 points to lead two other Mustang players into double figures, as Ola advances to today's quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Jonesboro. D.J. Beard scored 10 points and Brad Blount added 11 in the win.
"We were able to get in the gym and go over some game stuff," Miller said. "I was able to get them focused since we hadn't practiced since Thursday. I'm proud of the way we were able to handle ourselves on the court. We made enough shots early to give ourselves a lead."
Blount, who had been hampered most of the season with an ankle injury, was a force inside the paint against the smaller Forest Park team.
"Brad is now 100 percent better and that gives us some more muscle inside the paint," Miller said. "He definitely helps because he is not scared to mix it up in there."
Mason was happy to see Blount back healthy.
"I was definitely surprised at how well he did, " Mason said. "He was good on the boards."
Jonesboro and Ola split during the regular season with each team winning at home. The winner of tonight's game advances to the semifinals and earns a trip to the state playoffs. Jonesboro is the defending region tournament champion.
Ola, in its fourth year of existence, is hoping to earn the program's first state playoff berth.
"I think it will be a good game," Miller said. "We know what to expect from Jonesboro. We have to come in with the right mindset. Our goal all season has been to reach the state playoffs. We want to hang a banner in the gym. Just about all the other teams at the school have been to the playoff except the basketball teams."
Mason said it would be a dream come true to reach the state playoffs.
"I've been thinking about the state playoffs all season," Mason said. "It would be a big moment for us."
Forest Park ended the season losing four of their last seven games. Panthers coach Antonio Wade said this game was indicative of the way the season has gone for his team, which had its leading two scorers transfer during midseason.
"It has been a tough season," said Wade, who was in his first year at Forest Park. "We had some players to quit and some to transfer. We had some young guys that we counted on. They have a year's experience under their belts so we are looking forward to next season."
Stockbridge (girls) 53, Mount Zion 29: Amari Moreland scored a game-high 13 points and teammate Miracle Johnson came off the bench to contribute 10 points to lead the Tigers into the region quarterfinals. Moreland scored nine of her points in the third quarter as Stockbridge, the No. 7 seed in the tournament begin pulling away.
The Tigers led 42-21 after three quarter as they pressured the Mount Zion into several turnovers.
"We have been working hard on cutting down on our turnovers," Stockbridge coach Tondra Irby said. "We have doing a lot better on being patience with the basketball."
Stockbridge will met Forest Park, the No. 2 seed in the region, with the winner earning a state playoff berth. Forest Park swept the regular season series.
"It is a huge game for us," Irby said. "We know they are a good shooting team. We know what to expect from them. I'm hoping the motivation of the girls knowing that if we lose, then this is the end of the season. We have to come and play some good defense."
Griffin (girls) 38, Ola 36: Five days after an upset win over previously ranked Forest Park, the Bears continued their momentum into the region playoffs. Otisha Perkins scored 10 points to lead Griffin, which will meet Alcovy in today's quarterfinals, with the winner earning a state playoff berth.
Ola fought from a 36-26 deficit with 2:42 remaining to pull within a point. Mustangs guard Morgan Knowles hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining as they trailed 37-36. Griffin guard Jamiya Clemon made a free throw as the Bears increased the lead to 38-36 with 26 seconds.
A 3-pointer by Jordan Brown hit the side of the back board from the right corner as Griffin rebounded to secure the win.
Dutchtown (boys) 55, Griffin 43: Derrick Brock scored 15 points and Alphonzo Reid added 11 to lead the Bulldogs to the win they advance to the quarterfinals against host Mount Zion today. Avery Lynch added 10 points for the Bulldogs, who won both regular season meetings. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Dutchtown.
Griffin was led by Jahmad Clemons, who had a game-high 16 points.