Cougars finish 2nd in EC TourneyBy ROBBIE ROBERTSON,
For the previous two years, the Newton County Cougars have beaten Laurel in the East Central Community College Tournament.
As the singer Meatloaf said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
Laurel built a big first-half lead and closed the game out with the final eight points to take a 58-46 win over the Cougars in the tournament finals on Saturday night.
“I thought it was a good tournament for us,” Harber said. “It was good competition for us. I would have loved to have won the ball game but we needed that. We kind of play to the level of teams we play but overall, I was pleased. We made it to the finals and got beat by a good ball club.”
Newton County will host Kemper County on Tuesday night and play at Philadelphia on Friday night. On Saturday, the Cougars will play Vancleave in the Philadelphia shootout.
Laurel 58, County 46
Laurel built a 16-point lead and had to hold off a furious rally by Newton County to capture the boys’ championship of the ECCC Tournament.
Laurel led 8-7 early in the first before three straight 3-pointers spurred an 18-3 run to give the Golden Tornadoes a 26-10 lead with 4:47 left in the first half. Laurel maintained that advantage and led 37-22 at the half.
“We were a little intimidated by them to start with plus we have beaten them the last two years in this tournament,” Harber said. “I knew they were going to get after us. I just didn’t think we played with a lot of intensity in the first half.”
The Golden Tornadoes seemed in control, as they led 50-35 with 2:48 left to play. But the Cougars used an 11-0 run to cut the lead to four on a 3-pointer by ECCC signee Jalin Nicholson with 6:25 left in the game. But that was as close as Newton County got as Laurel scored the game’s last eight points to take the win.
“We cut it to four and had the ball four times with it being a four-point game,” Harber said. “I was proud of the way we played in the second half, we could have easily gotten beat by 30 points. I thought we made a couple of bonehead plays when we got it to five or six points. we came down and threw the ball away, dribbled into a trap. They have a good ball club.”
Nicholson led County with 22 points while Yunish Billy had nine points.
County 52, Southeast 45
After falling behind in the first period, the Cougars raced back to take a seven-point win.
Southeast led 14-11 after the first period but County responded by outscoring the Tigers 15-9 in the second period to lead 26-23 at the half.
County extended its lead in the third period by outscoring Southeast 15-7 to take a 41-30 lead at the end of the third.
Jalin Nicholson led the Cougars with 17 points while Yunish Billy had 12 points and Chris Mulford added nine.
County 60, Morton 43
The Cougars used a monster game from Jalin Nicholson to fight back and beat Morton by 17 in the tournament opening round.
County led 23-17 at the half, but Morton took a 37-34 by outscoring County 20-12. The Cougars then outscored Morton 25-6 in the fourth to take the win.
Nicholson led the Cougars with 31 points while Peyton Reeves had 10 points and Chris Mulford added eight points.