“He was feeling it tonight,” said NMHS coach David Cottrell. “We had to fight through some nerves early on and missed some shots around the rim that we normally make. He was able to hit some jump shots and took the pressure off.”
Edwards opened the game with a 3-pointer and the Jaguars took a 5-0 lead a minute later. New Manchester, the 5-AAAAA Region Champions, held on to the five point lead for the next three minutes. With 3:49 left on the clock, Apalachee scored their first points of the game on a pair of free throws by Kamar Baldwin. The Wildcats cut the deficit to one point seconds later when Cameron Blakley, the team’s post player and D-I recruit, scored on a layup.
The Jags found their rhythm again at the end of the quarter. Nashon Dortch scored on a layup and Edwards added his second 3-pointer for a 10-4 lead. New Manchester led 10-6 at the end of the first.
Edwards opened the second quarter like he did the first, with a shot from beyond the arch to put his team up 13-6. After taking an 18-8 lead off an Edwards jump shot, New Manchester suddenly went cold as Apalachee went on a seven point run to cut the Jags lead to 18-15. Four minutes remained in the half.
Edwards seemed determine to keep his team out in front late in the second quarter, and with 2:15 left on the clock he hit another three for a 23-18 lead. Dortch followed with a steal and layup to give the Jags a seven point advantage. New Manchester ran down the final minute in the second quarter and Keymont Jenkins put up a last second shot which bounced off the rim. The Jags went into the half up 27-20.
Edwards scored 21 of New Manchester’s 27 points in the first half, including four 3’s. Blakley led Apalachee with 10 points.
The third quarter started slowly as the defenses took charge. Dortch gave New Manchester a nine point lead with six minutes to play in the period. Joe Boyer put the Jags up 53-22 on a mid-ranged jumper forcing the Wildcats to call a timeout. As the clock crossed the midpoint of the third, Jenkins hit a shot for a New Manchester 35-22 advantage. One minute later Glenn Holloway put heavy emphasis on a dunk, putting the Jags up by 14 and forcing another Apalachee timeout. New Manchester ended the third up 43-29.
The Wildcats tried to reel in the Jags early on in the fourth quarter, but could not cut the deficit to single digits. With 4:15 remaining in the game, Dortch cut through two Apalachee defenders for a layup. He added a short jumper at the midway point to put the Jags up 50-34. A rebound and put-back by Holloway gave New Manchester a 16 point advantage. With three minutes to play the Wildcats were forced to foul just to get into the bonus. However the team elected not to foul as the final two minutes wound down, and the Jags cruised to the 17 point victory.
“This was a huge win for this program and our community,” said Cottrell. “We had two very good days of practice this week, and by no means did we play perfect, but we keep getting better and the kids are putting the team ahead of themselves.”
Edwards did not score in the second half but still lead all scorers with his 21 points. Dortch followed his teammate with 12 points and Boyer added 10. Blakley led the Wildcats with 20 points. Baldwin added 11 for Apalachee.
New Manchester will host the second round of the state tourney on Saturday against either Stephenson or Pope. Game time will be 7:30 p.m.