Lady Panthers win South 4A

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What a difference a year makes!

One year ago yesterday, the Brookhaven Lady Panthers and WayneCounty Lady War Eagles met in the Wayne County gymnasium for theSouth State 4A girls title. Wayne County won the game, andeventually captured the state championship.

On Saturday night, the same two teams squared off for the SouthState 4A girls championship in the James A. Sinclair Gymnasium.Before an estimated 1400 enthusiastic red and orange-clad fans, theLady Panthers stunned the Lady War Eagles 55-51.

Wayne County entered the game as the 4-time South State 4A girlschampion.

Pass Christian eliminated Mendenhall 51-44 in the girlsconsolation game.

In the North 4A girls finals at Oxford, No. 2 ranked-IndianolaGentry remained unbeaten with a 65-51 win over the Callaway LadyChargers. The consolation final saw Tunica Rosa Fort hand hostOxford a 61-57 loss.

Brookhaven received a bye in this week’s State 4A GirlsTournament in Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum. The Lady Panthersawait the winner of Pass Christian-Callaway game Saturday, March 3at 6:30 p.m.

Brookhaven 55, Wayne County 51

The Lady Panthers (31-5) had 3 things to accomplish in order towin against Wayne County. First, limit Wayne County’s All-Stateforward Shameka Russell; second, cut down on turnovers, and third,block out on the boards.

Brookhaven head coach Freda Craft talked about those thingsprior to the championship game, and following the game in apost-game interview.

“We wanted to slow down the Russell girl,” said Coach Craft inher first year at BHS. “We also wanted to block out and limit ourturnovers.”

Even though Ole Brook committed 21 turnovers in the game, it wassome crucial Wayne Co. miscues that aided the Lady Panthers in thewin. Junior forward Whitley Shannon came up with 3 important stealsin the second half, including consecutive steals that gaveBrookhaven the lead for good late in the game.

“Whitley stepped up and had a big game tonight,” Coach Craftsaid. Shannon had 3 steals and 3 assists; along with 5 points and 6rebounds.

Lady War Eagle head coach Gina Skelton was impressed by how wellthe Lady Panthers played.

“They played a great game tonight,” observed Coach Skelton. “Wejust could not do any thing with (Nikki) Byrd.”

Skelton was referring to the Dandy Dozen junior center, who ledall scorers with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 2 assists. Byrd scoredon a variety of drives to the basket, short one-hand jumpers in thepaint and offensive putbacks.

Wayne Co. (33-3) held an early 5-point lead, before Brookhavenwas able to get its offense rolling. The Lady Panthers would carrya 17-9 lead into the second frame. The second quarter was a virtualstandoff, but Ole Brook led at the half 26-17.

Skelton’s ballclub made their move in the second half. Thanks inpart to Brookhaven’s 10 third-quarter turnovers and some keyoutside shooting, the Lady War Eagles would take a 1-pointadvantage at 38-37 entering the final stanza. Russell and guardTamara Reed were Wayne County’s outside shooting touch in theperiod.

In the fourth, it would be the Lady War Eagle’s turn to catchthe turnover bug. After having 5 in the first half, Wayne Co. had 4turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. The last one allowedBrookhaven to reclaim the lead for good at 52-51. Several attemptsby Wayne County to force a tie or retake the lead would fallharmlessly off the rim.

“Everyone contributed to this win,” Coach Craft said. “The benchwas very supportive and the fans were tremendous.”

Lending support for Brookhaven was Swayze Black with 4 assistsand 5 rebounds. Monte’ Wilson had 3 steals. The Lady Panthers helda 29-19 edge in rebounding, and shot a blistering 70 percent (23 of33) from the floor.

Wayne Co. shot 37 percent (19 of 52) from the field. They wereled by Reed’s 16 points (4 treys in the second half) and Russell’s15 points.

Both teams shot 58 percent (7 of 12) from the charitystripe.

Pass Christian 51, Mendenhall 44

The Lady Tigers, coached by Marilyn Coleman, were led by TiffanyWilliams with 12 points and Marlekia Keyes with 11 points.Mendenhall concludes its season at 20-12.

The Lady Pirates (27-5) got 12 points from Kayla Hawkins. NicoleWittmann followed with 11 points, while Iriana McKay pumped in 10points. Pass Christian, coached by Patricia Barr, meets CallawayTuesday morning at 9.