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Lady Panthers smash McComb; Panthers advance

MAGNOLIA – The Division 6-4A tournament got under way Tuesdaywith 3 very exciting games, at the South Pike Coliseum. In Game 1,the No. 4 seed Brookhaven Panthers fought off a stubborn TerryBulldog squad 73-65.

The No. 6 seeded Brookhaven Lady Panthers ended a 6-game losingstreak with a 71-43 upset victory over the No. 3 seed McCombTigers.

In other action, the Raymond Rangers used overtime to upset thehost South Pike Eagles 55-48.

The Lady Panthers and Panthers continue tournament play onThursday. Brookhaven’s girls will meet the winner of SouthPike/Raymond at 7, followed by the Brookhaven boys and No. 1 seedMcComb at 8:30.

The Lady Panthers (12-17) were in the midst ofa six-game losing streak, with their last win coming on Jan. 21against Port Gibson, at Sinclair Gym. A balanced effort at bothends of the floor aided head coach Billy Holmes, assistant TerriHall and company to the 28-point ream, steam and dry-cleaning ofthe Lady Tigers.

“This was by far our best game of the year in terms ofexecuting,” said Holmes. “I am happy for our girls.”

Brookhaven realized a 16-10 lead after the opening 8 minutes.Chiquita Rancifer, starting for Shameka Gilmore who was ill, tossedin 7 of her 15 points in the period.

McComb (16-10) would muster one field goal and a free throw, asthe Lady Tigers trailed 31-13 at the intermission.

“We are young with only 2 seniors,” said McComb head coachCarolyn Whitehead. “Brookhaven picked the right time to have theirbest game of the year.”

Brookhaven went to their inside game in the third period. Juniorforward Anna Autman made a living in the paint. Pulling downnumerous rebounds on the offensive end, Autman scored 18 of hergame-high 25 points in the second half, with 7 in the third. TheLady Panthers carried 44-22 lead into the final frame.

“We got a lot of scoring from our post players,” said Holmes.Holmes was referring to Autman, Ayana Tillman and Kristian McCraywho combined for 40 points on the night. Tillman finished with 9points and McCray added 6 points.

Brookhaven continued its torrid shooting in the fourth. Autmanled the charge with 11 points in the final 8 minutes, including a5-for-6 effort from the charity stripe. Her teammates were12-for-14 from the free throw line in the period.

Autman also pulled 20 rebounds. Rancifer dished out 7 assists.Holmes’ ballclub committed just 15 turnovers, with only 5 in thefirst half.

“I told our kids that if we could get under 20 turnovers, wewould have a chance,” added Holmes.

McComb was led by Samantha Felder with 12 points.

The Panthers (22-5) arrived at the South Pikean hour and a half before game time. Brookhaven head coach RonaldHines wanted to get his team used to the cavernous conditions inthe coliseum. This strategy seemed to work as his ballclubentertained an 18-12 lead at the end of the first period.

Terry (12-12), coached by Brad Schut, used a lineup with 3players 6-foot-5 or taller. Bulldog James Kendrick had the hot handin the second quarter with 9 points but the maroon-clad caninestrailed 34-27 heading into the halftime locker room.

Panthers forward Dexter Middleton continued his scoring streak,erupting for 10 of his game-high 26 points in the third. Brookhavencarried a 50-46 lead into the final stanza.

Middleton was 6-for-8 from the free throw line in the third, and11-of-13 for the game.

The Bulldogs stayed close throughout the final 8 minutes.Forward Patrick Horton sacked 3 treys in the period, but Brookhavenanswered with an 11-for-13 performance from the charity stripe.

“Our free throw shooting was good tonight,” said Hines referringto his team’s 21-of-27 overall effort off the foul line.

Senior guard Brandon Caston followed Middleton with 17 points,including 3 treys. Rodney Daniels tallied 8 points.

Bulldog forward A. J. Oliver led Terry with 22 points. Hortonadded 20 points.