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Pass Christian Pirates scuttle Brook in playoffs

Free throws often make the difference in a close basketballgame. Tuesday night in Sinclair Gymnasium, the Brookhaven Panthersstruggled at the free throw line and endured the consequences,falling to Pass Christian 52-49 in the opening round of the SouthMississippi Class 4A playoffs as an estimated crowd of 700 watchedthe intense contest.

Pass Christian (20-9), directed by 6-foot-6 senior centerGarland Stewart’s 18 points, advances to Friday’s 4A semifinals atSt. Stanislaus. Brookhaven (24-6), making just 5 of 14 free throwsin the second half and 4 of 10 in the fourth quarter, ends itsseason on a disappointing note after winning the Division 6-4ATournament last Friday.

“We had the crowd support and our kids played hard,” saidBrookhaven first-year head coach Ronald Hines. “We just couldn’tmake our free throws.”

Stewart was 4-for-4 from the charity line in the final 39seconds of the game. With 6.2 seconds left on the clock, Stewart,slowed by a sprained left ankle, calmly netted a pair of freebies,giving his team a 3-point lead. Brookhaven senior guard BrandonCaston raced down the floor and launched a 3-pointer from the topof the key but it bounced off the left side of the rim, igniting aloud celebration on the Pirates’ bench.

“We played a rugged schedule against all the 5A teams on theCoast,” explained PC head coach Buddy Kennedy. “We lost a lot ofclose games so we were due. We overcame some rough spots in thegame tonight and regained our composure.”

Kennedy is in his 10th year at the helm and this is the fifthtime for the Pirates to make the playoffs. “Now we are going backhome. St. Stanislaus is our biggest rival and they are only sixmiles down the road.”

The Pirates will play Picayune (29-2) in Friday night’ssemifinals. St. Stanislaus (29-4) plays Northeast Lauderdale(21-11) in the other game. Consolation and championship games areSaturday night, with the top three finishers advancing to the statetournament in Jackson.

Brookhaven trailed the Pirates 30-28 at halftime. The Pantherspulled ahead 39-36 on a trey by Caston and 4:19 left in the thirdframe.

Foul trouble slowed both teams. Brookhaven guard DexterMiddleton picked up his third personal foul with 3:16 left in thethird. Senior center Lamar Hall fouled out of the game with 5:31left to play and the score tied at 44-44.

Hines sent his Panthers into a delay game after they went up46-44 on 2 free throws by Philip Tobias. They held their last leadat 48-47 when Caston sank his first free throw in the doublebonus.

Stewart’s 2 free throws with 39 seconds left pushed the Piratesahead 49-48. Point guard Ruben Nichols added a free throw andStewart bagged 2 more which secured the victory. Nichols netted 15points in the game.

Middleton finished with 13 points for the Panthers, scoring 11the first half. Hall added 12 points and Caston 11. Hall accountedfor 7 rebounds.

The Pirates had 2 starters, Chad Musgrove and Billy Crawford,foul out. Musgrove bowed out with 7:01 left to play and had 5rebounds.