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McComb defense shuts down Panthers

McComb coach Hilton Harrell knew his Tigers would have to playbetter defense Friday night when they invaded Brookhaven’s SinclairGymnasium. The Tigers responded, stepped it up on defense anddumped the Panthers 61-51 in a Division 6-4A showdown.

McComb (18-9, 8-4) wanted to avoid another overtime shootoutwith the Panthers similar to the narrow 78-71 win over Brookhaven,Jan. 30, at McComb. Harrell’s man-to-man defensive strategy workedwonders, holding Jasper Hall, Brookhaven’s leading scorer, to 9points.

“Jasper scored 32 points on us last time when we played zone,”said Harrell. “We came out man-to-man and our kids got theirconfidence going.”

Offensively the Tigers got 21 points from 5-11 guard JohnThompson plus 18 points and 9 rebounds from post Eric Mitchell.

On Senior Night, Brookhaven took a 22-19 halftime lead as seniorcenter Philip Tobias bulled his way inside for 14 points and 7rebounds. Tobias only scored 2 points in the second half and McCombcaught fire.

McComb tied the score at 22-22 on a trey by Mitchell. Brookhavengot a trey from Genario Richardson for a 25-22 lead but Thompsonwarmed up. He scored 10 points in the third quarter and the Tigerstook a 40-33 lead.

Brookhaven (14-15, 5-7) is seeded fifth in this week’s divisiontournament at McComb and plays Terry Tuesday at 5 p.m. The Pantherscommitted 26 turnovers against McComb and suffered theconsequences.

BHS head coach Ronald Hines said his Panthers weren’t at fullspeed. Hall had a head cold. Richardson was slowed by cramps in hisleft calf in the second half and Rodney Daniels suffered a cut inhis mouth at 5:06 of the fourth quarter.

“We were flat the whole game,” said Hines. “We were looking fora scorer to make something happen. We missed a lot of baskets.Jasper didn’t feel well.”

The Panthers came from behind in the second quarter. They tookthe lead at 16-15 on a field goal by Jermaine Culver with 5:09 leftin the first half.

The Tigers, seeded No. 2 in the division tournament, made 13 of19 free throws in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

Under a new division tournament format this year, the top fourteams will advance to next week’s South Mississippi playoffs.