The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local Sports

March 3, 2014

Albemarle Bulldogs win 2014 1A Midwest Sectional title

Bulldogs down Mount Airy 63-52 at home for berth into regionals

Sunday, March 2, 2014 — The last time that the Albemarle boys’ varsity basketball squad last claimed a sectional title and a berth in the regional round of the state playoffs six years ago.

In the 2007-2008 season, Albemarle’s J.J. Deans hit two free throws with 10 seconds left in overtime to propel the Bulldogs to a 65-61 win over Jordan-Matthews in the sectional finals.

This season, Albemarle faced a Mount Airy team that had already posted road wins over Yadkin Valley Conference squads in the playoffs at North Stanly and North Moore.

Albemarle built a big lead in the first half and held off the Bears in the second half to claim the 2014 1A Midwest sectional title with a 63-52 victory.

Bryan Blanton led three in double figures for Albemarle (25-2) with 16 points including a perfect 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.

Terrace Ellis added 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and led the Bulldogs with five assists, while Kani Sellers scored 12 points off the bench for Albemarle.

Caleb Horton led Mount Airy (17-10) with 15 points while 6’10” center Carson Mounce added 14 points.

Albemarle held the visiting Bears to 37.5 percent shooting overall (21-of-56) including 7-of-19 in a first half in which the Bulldogs built a double-digit lead. In the first half, Albemarle hit 14-of-32 overall (43.8 percent) but finished 22-of-56 overall for the game (39.3 percent) hitting 8-of-24 in the second half.

Mount Airy was dealt a severe blow in the opening quarter after taking what would be the only Bears lead of the game 4-3 midway though the period.

Clay Mounce, a 6’4” sophomore forward that averaged 10.3 points per game coming into the postseason, went up for a rebound and suffered an apparent sprained ankle when he landed on a teammate’s foot.

The injury forced Mount Airy to matchup with Albemarle with a smaller lineup and the Bulldogs took immediate advantage. Sellers’ three-pointer with 2:51 left started a 13-0 run for Albemarle over the next two minutes.

Sellers struck again with five straight points in the second quarter, pushing the Albemarle lead to 21-6 and forcing another Mount Airy timeout.

The Bears narrowed the gap to 11 midway through the second quarter, but Albemarle finished on a 12-4 run to lead by 19 at halftime.

Mount Airy slowly started chipping away at the Albemarle lead in the third quarter. Trailing 44-22 with 4:43 on the clock, the Bears outscored the Bulldogs 12-4 over the final minutes of the period to pull within 14 points after three quarters of play.

Albemarle scored just four points over an eight-minute span starting midway through the third and ending with Blanton’s layup with 4:39 left in the fourth. Over that span, Mount Airy had the Bulldogs lead down to eight points.

The final three minutes became a free-throw shooting contest as the Bears started fouling to put the Bulldogs on the line. Albemarle missed four of their first five foul shots in that time but Mount Airy failed to score as well. Blanton and Sellers each knocked down a pair of foul shots with just under two minutes left to push the lead back to 14.

In the final minute, the Bears pulled their starters and the Bulldogs hit 4-of-8 free throws down the stretch to secure the sectional championship.

For the game, Albemarle was 13-of-23 from the free-throw line (56.5 percent) including 9-of-19 in the final quarter. Mount Airy hit 9-of-16 overall at the line.

“We got out to a big lead in the first half and thank goodness that we did,” Albemarle head coach Al Andrew said.

“I did not like how we played in the second half. We played hard but not smart basketball and we let them back in. This time of year, it’s not about how pretty things are, it’s scoring more points.”

The Albemarle coach also talked about the importance of home court advantage in the playoffs.

“(Home court adantage) does not ensure the win, but it is an advantage not to travel,” Andrews said.

“The kids played hard all year long and earned the right to play at home. It might have been different at Mount Airy; they have been on the road all week and are a tough group.”

As in 2008, the Bulldogs will face off with the Winston-Salem Prep Phoenix in the regional semifinals. The Phoenix (23-4) advanced to the regionals with wins over West Columbus (85-46), Chatham Central (89-54) and East Surry (71-55).

The last game between the two schools was in the  2011 playoffs when Winston-Salem Prep won at home over Albemarle 71-66 in the sectional finals.

MA    6    11    17    18    52

A    16    20    12    15    63

MA – Caleb Horton 15, Holder 3, Daily 4, King 8, Simmons 2, Cl. Mounce 2, Carson Mounce 14, S. Smith 3, J. Smith 1.

A – Bryan Blanton 16, Terrace Ellis 13, Kani Sellers 12, Autry 9, Baldwin 8, Ridenhour 5.

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