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New Albany was making noise even before their season opening match-up against Ingomar Monday night.
As announced last Wednesday by the Clarion Ledger, the Lady Bulldogs are the preseason number one team in the state in the paper's poll, which combines all classes. New Albany spent a majority of last season in that same spot, and with everyone returning from last year's 32-1 squad, there is little surprise the New Albany is once again favored.
"It's a great honor for our basketball team to be recognized out of 300 or so teams in the state, but we know what comes with that," NAHS head coach John Stroud said. "There's no where to go but down, but it's just another accolade for these girls. We were number one for a good part of last season, so they're used to the pressure, but to be named in the preseason is a big honor. We're going to try to go out, do our thing and keep that going."
The Lady 'Dawgs opened the new year at Ingomar Monday night and had a hard time putting the Lady Falcons away.
New Albany jumped to a 17-5 lead after the first quarter, led by Nyambi Penson's two three-pointers, but Ingomar outscored the Lady 'Dawgs 13-12 in the second, making it an 11 point game at the half.
Once again outscoring New Albany in the third, Kayla Stevens made it a five-point game in the frame with her three-pointer before Jazmine Spears stepped up with nine fourth quarter points to give New Albany the 60-44 win. Clutch situations like these are why Spears is among the state's best, as she was named a Dandy Dozen selection by the Clarion Ledger. Spears is the first player Stroud has coached to receive the honor and is the youngest of this year's honorees.
"It's a great honor for Jazmine to be 15 years old and on the Dandy Dozen," Stroud said. "Sky's the limit with her and she can be as good as she wants to be. She wants the team to work and get better and she's a great player who continues to work to get better. We're excited to have her."
Spears finished with 21 points to lead New Albany (1-0), while Penson finished with 18 (five three-pointers) and Kebrina Lucas added 10 points.
Shelly Grisham led Ingomar (0-2) with 15 points (11-15 free throws), while Kayla Stevens added 14.
New Albany will be challenged by another county opponent this Thursday, traveling to Myrtle, while Ingomar will play in the Pontotoc Tournament this weekend.