Lawrence Co. girls, BHS boys notch victories

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

MONTICELLO — Two of the hottest high school basketball teams inthe area played at Lawrence County High School Friday night. Theydidn’t play each other, with one being a girls team and the otherboys; but they both fought off stubborn challenges from underdogopponents.

In girls play, the Lawrence County Lady Cougars defeatedBrookhaven, 56-50, improving to 12-1 in the process. The BrookhavenPanthers followed that with a 76-67 win over the Cougar boys. Bothgames were contested into the final minutes, far different fromcomfortable wins both the Lady Cougars and Panthers had earnedagainst their respective neighborhood rivals a few weeksearlier.

In girls action, Coach Vicki Rutland’s Lady Cougars led 23-17 atthe half, and carved out a 15-point lead midway through the thirdquarter. Freda Craft’s Lady Panthers (3-8) would not go away,however, and made a game of it in the fourth.

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“I’m obviously glad we won the game,” Coach Rutland said, “butwe didn’t play a very good game tonight. We came out and had a nicespurt in the third quarter, but Brookhaven did a great job ofbattling back into it.”

Kahatara Taylor led the Lady Cougars with 15 points, 6 rebounds,and 5 steals. Tiaria Griffin added 15 points, and Mary MargaretMcLaurin scored 10. Alli Harris had 7 rebounds and 6 steals forLawrence County.

“We played a lot better than we have been playing lately,” saidCoach Craft. “We’ve just got to find a way to get over thehump.”

While Lawrence County employed a balanced scoring attack,Brookhaven’s second half comeback was almost totally powered byKearra Collins who led all scorers with 29 points, 22 of themcoming in the second half, 12 of them coming in the fourthquarter.

Brookhaven 76, Lawrence 67

The boys game was similar to the girls, in that the favored teamwon, but like the Lady Cougars, the BHS Panthers found themselvesin a tough fight. Powered by Fred Fairman and Jay Stewart, OleBrook jumped to a 17-2 lead. Lawrence County battled back, cuttingthe Brookhaven lead to 31-30 at one point, before trailing 37-30 athalftime.

Lawrence County finally caught up, 41-41, in the fourth quarter,but the Cougars never got ahead. Again, powered by Stewart andFairman, the Panthers pulled away to victory.

Stewart hit six 3-pointers en route to a 25-point night. Fairmanscored 14. Additional stats were not available but Fairman, anintimidating 6-foot-8 junior center, had more than his share ofrebounds, blocked shots, and altered shots. That duo helpedBrookhaven overcome foul trouble from the very outset. Brookhavenwas whistled for 29 fouls in the game, and three Panther playersfouled out.

“The foul trouble was a problem,” said Panther coach PrestonWilson, “but the guys battled through it. We shot the ball prettywell tonight, and we’re happy to get a win. You’ve got to giveLawrence County credit for coming back from that early deficit.They fought hard.”

The game was a homecoming of sorts for Wilson, who was LawrenceCounty’s coach for the last three years, before returning to BHSfor his second stint as Panther coach.

“It’s different,” Wilson said, “coming back to a gym that wasyour home for several years. You not only know and care for theother players, you know most of the people in the stands. Once thegame starts, though, it’s a basketball game.”

Lawrence County (6-7) was led by Matthew Wells, who scored 21points. It was Wells’ biggest basketball contribution so far,having played in the Alabama-Mississippi football all-star gamejust last weekend. Antonio Batiste scored 13 for the Cougars.

“I proud of the way our guys back from 17-2,” said first-yearLawrence County coach Pat Bridges, who assisted Wilson last season.”It could have gotten ugly, but our guys kept battling. If wecontinue to get that kind of effort, we’ll keep gettingbetter.”

Brookhaven resumes play Monday in the McComb Tournament, facingthe North Pike girls at 3:30 and the North Pike boys at 5.

Lawrence County resumes play Dec. 28, meeting Warren Central inthe Mendenhall Tournament. The Lady Cougars play at 2:30 and theCougars play at 5:30.