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Ole Brook handles business against Natchez Bulldogs

After a disappointing loss to Provine earlier in the week, the Brookhaven Panthers bounced back in a big way Friday night against district foe Natchez, cruising to a 76-59 win.

The win moves the Panthers to 15-5 overall and 3-2 in district play. The win also keeps the Panthers in the all important 5A standings for the playoffs.

“We played a complete game tonight and everyone had a great time,” Brookhaven head coach Jimmie Butler said. “Natchez has a young and talented team that must not be taken for granted.”

It’s tough to bounce back after suffering a tough loss like Brookhaven did against Provine, but the Panthers made a strong statement Friday night from the opening tip to the final whistle.

Brookhaven came out angry and played with aggressiveness and determination in the first quarter. They swarmed on defense, holding Natchez to only four points in the first quarter and jumped out to an early 19-4 lead at the end of the quarter.

The defense was key for the Panthers all game as they forced turnovers left and right and turned them into easy transition buckets to put the game out of reach early.

The philosophy of defense creating scoring chances on offense has been the mantra for the Panthers all season long and it has worked to their benefit, especially Friday night.

“We watched film and developed a defensive game plan that frustrated their post players,” Butler said. “We always believed that tough defense sparked our offense and tonight, we were good on both sides of the ball.”

The results of the game plan frustrated the Bulldogs and Brookhaven took a 37-14 lead going into halftime.

Both schools put on an offensive show in the third quarter as teams traded basket after basket. The two schools combined to score 50 points in the quarter, with the Panthers taking a 64-37 lead into the final quarter.

Natchez could cut the Brookhaven lead to only 11 points late in the quarter, but it was too much to overcome as Brookhaven pulled away and took home the victory 76-61.

Star senior guard Damarius Brooks led the scoring charge for the Panthers, scoring 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and added on seven rebounds, five steals and three assists. Sophomore forward Lafollette Bogan was the next leading scorer for Brookhaven with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, racking up four rebounds and two steals as well.

The defense helped the Panthers shoot an efficient percentage from the field at 45 percent and collected 16 steals as well.

Lady Panthers 66, Lady Bulldogs 50

The Brookhaven Lady Panthers continued their winning streak with their sixth game in a row Friday night against Natchez by a score of 66-50.

The Lady Panthers remain the hottest team in Lincoln County right now as the win moves the Lady Panthers to 5-0 in district play. They have not lost a game since the beginning of the new year.

“We’re starting to get more confident playing together as a team,” Brookhaven head coach Preston Wilson said. “We’ve got a lot of people now that are shooting the ball a lot better. We had a tough early schedule and we’re finally starting to put it together.”

Not only did the Lady Panthers shoot the ball well Friday night, but also their defense shut down the Lady Bulldogs in the first half by holding them to only 10 points, taking a 29-10 lead at halftime.

It was the same routine for the Lady Panthers as it was for the Panthers as they cruised in the second half, continuing their hot streak en route to their 66-50 win.

“We were able to establish our defense early, which we like to do first and we got a lot of easy baskets, and (Shania) Harris shot the ball well early and so did (Asia) Byrd,” Wilson said. “All of those things made a huge difference for us.”

Sophomore point guard Shania Harris has been the focal point of the offense all season long and continued her stellar play Friday night, leading the team with a game-high 20 points. Sophomore center Tamia Stallings was next in line in scoring with nine points, seven of them coming in the second half. Senior guard Asia Byrd was next in scoring with eight points for the night.13 players for the Lady Panthers scored against Natchez.

Next up for the Panthers is a road trip to Jackson to face Jim Hill Tuesday night. The Lady Panthers tip off at 6 p.m. followed by the Panthers at 7:30 p.m.