Bulldogs advance to area championship

Published 12:05 am Saturday, February 7, 2009

The top-seeded Andalusia Bulldogs held off feisty No. 4 seed Thomasville Friday night, winning 71-57 in a game that remained close through most of the first half.

Andalusia (22-2) led 28-27 with 1:31 left in the second quarter before finishing the first half on a 5-0 run to get some breathing room. The Bulldogs also opened up the second half on a 10-2 run.

One key for Andalusia was its free-throw shooting, which had been inconsistent during the regular season. The Bulldogs were 14-of-16 from the free-throw line Friday night.

“We worked all week on making free throws,” Andalusia coach Richard Robertson said. “It’s cost us a ball game or two already this season but it worked out good for us tonight.”

Nico Johnson had 31 points to lead the Bulldogs, followed by Leslie James with 20 points and Brandon Sims with eight. Jamarcus Blackmon led Thomasville with 20 points.

Andalusia held a 5-2 lead early in the first quarter but the Tigers roared back in front, 9-5, quickly. Andalusia regained the lead and stretched its advantage to 22-17 with 5:57 left in the second quarter.

But the Tigers responded with two straight 3-pointers and moved in front, 23-22. Johnson hit two free throws with 3:12 left in the quarter to regain the lead for the Bulldogs, who did not trail again in the game.

Robertson said he felt his team gave a “C” effort Friday night.

“We’re still making the same mistakes,” Robertson said. “We broke down tonight on defense several times. We’ve got to find somebody who wants to play defense.”

The Bulldogs took advantage of their size advantage throughout the night, as Johnson continually posted up for easy layups and short jump shots. In one first-quarter sequence, three Bulldogs missed three consecutive close shots but Johnson was there to put the rebound home on the fourth attempt.

“That’s the key,” Robertson said. “You go to the basket because that’s the highest percentage shot in basketball. The two highest percentage shots in basketball are the layup and the free throw, and that’s what we want to accomplish first.

“If they stop that, then we can start taking the mid-range shot. What our guys saw tonight is that when we took that mid-range shot and missed, instead of us scoring, it led to (Thomasville) scoring at the other end of the court.”

Andalusia will play Clarke County in the area championship game Monday evening. Clarke County defeated Hillcrest 59-52 earlier Friday night.