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McComb cools Ole Brook rally

McComb senior guard Antonio Johnson displayed the calm demeanor of a seasoned veteran when he stood at the free throw line Friday night. A loud, near-capacity Sinclair Gymnasium crowd tried to distract Johnson but he coolly made 4 straight free throws in the final 21 seconds, preserving McComb’s hard-fought 57-50 win against the Brookhaven Panthers.

     Johnson finished with a game-high 17 points as the Tigers improved their record to 16-3 overall and 2-0 in the Region 7-5A race. The Panthers sank to 12-10 and 0-3.

     McComb coach Hilton Harrell said he felt confident with Johnson at the free throw line. “He’s been playing for us since ninth grade.”

     Harrell said he was impressed by the turnout for the ancient rivalry. “It was a typical McComb-Brookhaven game. It was a real good crowd. It felt like Dukies were out there,” referring to the vocal Duke University student section.

     “We got a lot of loose balls and we were able to pull (Panthers) out of their zone defense,” said Harrell.

     Harrell’s Tigers started fast. They capitalized on turnovers and led 29-18 at halftime. Stacey Mack, a 6-foot-6 junior center, grabbed 9 rebounds and scored 8 points. Shemar Williams snatched 7 rebounds.

     The Panthers trailed by 14 points, 44-30, entering the fourth quarter. They authored a strong comeback and cut the deficit to a field goal, 50-48, on Khalil Newton’s baseline drive with 55 seconds left in the game.

     The Tigers responded. Mack made a free throw off the double bonus. Lederius Simmons cashed in a steal with a layup and his team led 53-48 with 34 seconds left..

     Panther center Ryan Thibodeaux scored inside with 25 seconds left to play and BHS trailed 53-50. A missed free throw, followed by a turnover, snuffed out Brook’s charge.

     “We made some crucial turnovers at the wrong time and McComb capitalized on it,” said BHS boss Preston Wilson. “Our kids fought hard to come back from 15 points down.”

     Newton paced the Panthers with 16 points. Thibodeaux finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds. Fred Trevillion scored 11 points and snatched 9 rebounds.

     For the game, BHS had 15 turnovers. McComb had 16 turnovers.