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Newton boys topple Bay Springs for 7-2A title

By Staff
Feb. 17, 2001
By Fredie Carmichael
Special to The Star
The jam-packed crowd at Clarkdale's gym Friday night got to see two Division 7-2A heavyweights fight it out until the final horn sounded, with the Tigers of Newton getting the knockout punch in an 89-85 win over Bay Springs.
Trailing 70-69 with 5:01 left to play, Tournament MVP Mario Qualls of Newton stopped and popped a 10-foot jumper that gave the Tigers a lead that they never relinquished.
To say the two teams came out on fire would be the understatement of the year. Just 30 seconds into the contest Bay Springs took a 5-2 lead on a 3 by Enos Hamilton. After a quick Tiger putback, Newton's Ladarrian Blaylock jacked a trey of his own and Newton held a 7-5 edge.
Bay Springs star Jason Forte was fouled on an attempted 3 and made all three free throws that put the Bulldogs on top 25-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Forte began to really fill it up early in the second period as he scored 11 of Bay Springs' first 14 points, draining his fourth consecutive shot on a 3 from the corner to put the Bulldogs on top 39-27 with 5:26 left in the half.
Qualls is no slouch either, and with 3:16 left before halftime he proved that he was more than just a scorer as he shook his defender, penetrated the lane and made a spectacular no-look pass to Charles Dukes for a layup to cut the lead to 39-33. The Tigers ended the half on a eight-foot bank shot that brought the deficit to 51-42 at the break.
Qualls must have filled up with a tank of gas at the intermission, as he blazed the nets for the second half's first seven points and had the Tigers within 51-49 on a trey from the top of the key. Lance Pruitt made a slashing move to the basket and kissed it off the glass to knot it up at 53-53 with 3:58 left in the third.
As both teams started answering shot-for-shot, Bay Springs' Claude Prewitt nailed a 3-pointer with a defender draped all over him to tie it up at 64-64 to end the frantic third.
Forte's three-point play the old fashioned way with 5:54 left in the game gave the Bulldogs a slim 70-69 lead. But it didn't last long as Newton pulled away. sparked by Dukes' unbelievable shot that was made while falling to the floor for a 73-70 Tigers' lead.
Newton was led in scoring by Qualls' 32, followed by Pruitt's 20, and Dukes' 12.
Forte blistered the nets for a game-high 33 in a losing effort for Bay Springs, while Prewitt and Jason Norris added 15 apiece.
Newton hosts the Division 6-2A runnerup Tuesday, while Bay Springs will travel to the 6-2A champ. Both games are at 7 p.m.