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Albany High shakes off slow start, tops North Clayton

Indians hit 14 of 16 from free throw line in final quarter

Albany High’s Malik Dungee dribbles down the court with North Clayton’s Taiyon Hector defending in Saturday’s game at the U-Save-It Christmas Classic. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

Albany High’s Malik Dungee dribbles down the court with North Clayton’s Taiyon Hector defending in Saturday’s game at the U-Save-It Christmas Classic. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

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Albany High’s Dezmond Newberry grabs an offensive rebound and then throws down a dunk early in Saturday’s game against North Clayton. Newberry finished with 12 points in the Indians’ win. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

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Albany’s DeAndre Hamilton fends off a North Clayton defender Saturday in the U-Save-It Classic. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

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Albany’s Jordan Young puts up a shot Saturday in the U-Save-It Classic. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — Albany High School boys basketball coach Archie Chatmon serves as the tournament director for the U-Save-It Christmas Classic.

Saturday afternoon, the longtime coach turned things over to his assistant Ralph Wilson — at least for the day.

Chatmon gave Wilson high marks in his debut Saturday afternoon as he guided the Indians to a 64-55 victory over North Clayton in the second day of the Classic.

But Chatmon was still watching, giving an occasional peep as he performed his director duties.

The play between the two schools was much different than on Friday. The Indians were a bit sluggish after a thrilling overtime win over Cedar Grove, while North Clayton, which played lethargic in a 45-40 loss to Monroe in Friday night’s late game, started the game sizzling.

It could have been understandable for North Clayton if it began sluggishly. The Eagles didn’t finish against Monroe until well after midnight.

However, North Clayton gave Albany all it could handle for three and a half quarters before Albany’s clutch free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the victory in a game that was much closer than the score indicated.

“We’ve just got to start doing the things we’re used to doing,” Wilson said. “We get up and the guys lose focus. We’ve got to be able to play through that and eliminate some careless turnovers.”

Albany ended the game on a 12-2 run, using its inside defense to thwart any comeback effort from North Clayton.

Tyler Cheese led the Indians with 16 points, including three points off free throws in the final 3:52, helping Albany High finish 14-of-16 from the free throw line in the final quarter.

Dezmond Newberry finished with 12 points, while Malik Dungee and Joe Stone finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

But things didn’t start out too well for the Indians (6-2). North Clayton opened by sinking four of its first five shots from the floor and built a 9-3 advantage behind four points from the Eagles’ Reginald Scurry.

Albany, meanwhile, converted on just one of its first six attempts during the opening 4:38 to fall behind. But Dungee sank a basket, then Cheese keyed a 9-0 run over the remainder of the first quarter when he drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing.

The Indians then built leads as high as six before North Clayton rallied back to take the lead at 39-38 at the 4:10 mark of third on a bucket from Marquez Anthony.

But just as they did in their loss to Monroe on Friday night, the Eagles went cold from the floor late in the third, getting outscored 9-2 over the final four minutes as the Indians took control, then they sealed the win with their defense and clutch free throw shooting late.

“We’re working on that (free throws),” Wilson said. “That is our Achilles’ heel, our free throw shooting. Hopefully, this will help us get some confidence.”

Paul Sellers led North Clayton with 14 points, while Scurry finished with 11.