By Maurice Patton
MT. PLEASANT – With nearly half its points coming from players less than 72 hours removed from winning a state football championship, Fayetteville overwhelmed host Mt. Pleasant in a 52-40 decision Monday night.
The visiting Tigers got a game-high 20 points from receiver/defensive end Isaiah Thomison, with running back Aljerea Johnson adding a 3-pointer and receiver Corian Cash scoring a basket.
Mt. Pleasant, meanwhile, committed 25 turnovers – helping Fayetteville rally from a 31-24 third-quarter deficit.
“Any time you turn it over 20-plus times, you’re not going to beat anybody,” second-year Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Carney said. “They sensed that. They’re an athletic team, they do a good job in their man-to-man (defense). We didn’t do a good job screening bodies, meeting passes.
“For 2½ quarters we put ourselves in position to win a basketball game against what is traditionally a pretty good team.”
Kentra Frierson scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the first 21 minutes, helping the host Tigers (2-3) to a 31-24 advantage at the three-minute mark of the third period. Mt. Pleasant struggled to run its attack against Fayetteville’s pressing, trapping defense, though, and the visitors closed the quarter with 11 unanswered points.
“We kept making mistakes; they caught momentum and took the lead,” Frierson said. “Some of our guys got our heads down, and they kept the momentum. We’re a young team. We’ll get back in the gym, keep working and come out with a better result the next time.”
Frierson converted a three-point play to open the fourth quarter and Chris Andrews hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 35 with just under seven minutes remaining.
Thomison put Fayetteville (2-5) back up, then followed a driving Cash layup with another low-post basket as the visitors pulled away – leading by as many as 15 in the final minute.
“They played Friday, we had a little practice (Sunday) and we came here,” Fayetteville coach Chris Murdock said of the six players — including freshman K.J. Jackson, the title game MVP — that participated in the 20-14 Class 1A BlueCross Bowl victory over South Pittsburg. “We just got going in our press.
“Now we get to practice three days before we play Culleoka (Friday at Fayetteville).”
Brayden Hockett added 17 points in the win.
“No. 1 (Hockett) and No. 5 (Marquese Nance, five points) are really good players, maybe even next-level players,” Carney said. “No. 23 (Thomison) was a factor rebounding the basketball. He caught some lobs and deterred some shots around the rim. When we play them in February, they’re going to be really tough.”
Besides Frierson and Tip Marlow (six points), Mt. Pleasant is playing with young and largely inexperienced talent. Four of the eight players that saw floor time are freshmen, and neither junior Chris Andrews nor sophomore Demarkus Brown have been in pivotal positions prior to this season.
“We’ve got some youth, and some older players in some different positions, in decision making-type roles,” Carney said. “This was a team that was unfamiliar with being in that type situation.
“We’ve got to learn from it. There’s going to be more teams that put heat on us on down the way. We’ve got to learn from it and get better from it.”
Sporadic offense not enough: In the girls game, Mt. Pleasant went nearly five first-half minutes without a point and Fayetteville scored 12 in a decisive stretch as the visitors won 64-31.
“We score in spurts, but not for four full quarters,” Lady Tigers coach Amy Odom said. “We struggled with that last year. We’ve got to cut down our turnovers.
“We’ve not told any of the girls not to shoot. If you’re open, shoot the ball. But we’ve got five freshmen. We’re young, trying to learn the game.”
Baleigh Gray scored 12 points to lead Mt. Pleasant. Zanaria Robinson, a 6-3 Arkansas-Little Rock signee, scored 12 for Fayetteville, with Destinee Rhea coming off the bench and adding 11.
Next up: Mt. Pleasant travels for doubleheaders Tuesday at Collinwood and Friday at Cornersville.
Fayetteville boys 52, Mt. Pleasant 40
F 9 9 17 17 – 52
M 10 14 7 9 – 40
Fayetteville (52) – Camaurionn Taylor 5, Brayden Hockett 17, Marquese Nance 5, Isaiah Thomison 20, Aljerea Johnson 3, Corian Cash 2
Mt. Pleasant (40) – Keevan Cooper 2, Kentra Frierson 16, Tip Marlow 6, Chris Andrews 5, Demarkus Brown 6, Bennett Hughes 5
3-pointers – Fayetteville 4 (Taylor, Hockett, Nance, Johnson), Mt. Pleasant 3 (Frierson 2, Hughes)
Fayetteville girls 64, Mt. Pleasant 31
F 17 18 17 12 – 64
M 4 9 13 5 – 31
Fayetteville (64) – Elexis Humphrey 2, Isabella Martin 2, Destinee Rhea 11, Hannah Griffin 5, Shaneka Nance 8, Zanaria Robinson 12, Gracie Hoagland 10, Hannah Litaker 4, Tatum Delap 5
Mt. Pleasant (31) – Kielee Bradley 3, Baleigh Gray 12, Emily Crossman 4, Addison Workman 5, Ayanna Jones 4, Maggie Simpson 3
3-pointers – Fayetteville 3 (Griffin, Nance 2), Mt. Pleasant 2 (Bradley, Simpson)
All photos by Vanessa Beach / SM-Tn Sports