ALBANY — Defense wins championships — again? You betcha. Albany held Amite to a season-low 34 points on Friday night and the net result was a District 8-3A championship.
Albany controlled the game from start to finish, hitting 16 of 20 free throws, including 10 of 13 in the second half, while taking a 52-34 victory over Amite in the game played at Albany.
Albany (20-8, 8-1) clinched its first district title in six seasons with one game remaining. The Hornets play Bogalusa Monday. Amite (15-10, 6-3) had a previous season-low of 41 points in a 96-41 loss to Class 1A power Madison Prep.
“Getting our 20th win and winning district is a special thing,” Albany first-year coach Chris Carter said. “I don’t think Albany has ever swept Amite. I’m so proud of my guys. They played together as a team.”
Amite’s James Harvey scored 31 points in the first meeting between the two teams (Albany won 61-57). Harvey scored 10 points Friday as Albany senior Andrew Harris and others stepped up defensively.
“Harvey is a great player and that’s got to be a season low in points for him,” Carter said. “We didn’t let them get anything in transition.”
Amite coach Ron Cox said his team had a good week of practice, so he was baffled by the way his team played.
“We were horrible on defense,” Cox said. “We needed somebody to step up offensively. Albany is fundamentally sound and we couldn’t turn them over like we do most teams. They did a good job of taking care of the ball.”
Sophomore Sean Sykes led the Hornets with 13 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. His cousin, Quincy Sykes, added 11 points and hit all seven of his free throws. Dylan Hoyt and Justin Thompson had nine points each.
Albany led 16-7 after the first quarter as senior Amari Johnson made a nice move and hit a layup at the buzzer. Albany twice stretched its lead to 12 points in the second quarter as Thompson hit a 3-pointer and Danton Cunningham scored on a power move.
In the middle of the third quarter, Amite got as close as 33-26 on a free throw jumper by Kevin Downing. Albany closed the quarter on a 7-2 run as Thompson drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 40-28 lead.
Amite cut the deficit to 44-34 on a Harvey layup with 3:31 remaining in the game. The Warriors were held scoreless from there. Albany burned nearly two minutes of clock with solid ballhandling and 18 passes.
Thompson, a 6-foot-2 junior, hit three of four 3-pointers.
“Winning district feels good,” Thompson said. “Plus my teams have never beaten Amite before. We played good defense and every time this season we’ve gotten to free throw line a lot we’ve won.”
Brennan Edwards and Devantae Smith added seven points each for Amite.
The 30-year-old Carter was hired by Albany in June for his first varsity head coaching job.
“Coach Carter is upbeat and young,” Thompson said. “He brought a different mentality to the team. It’s working.”