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Brookhaven Panthers’ hearts broken in overtime 86-85 loss

It took extra minutes for Natchez to squeak by Brookhaven Friday night, taking the first Region 6-5A game of the year 86-85 in overtime.

A mental mistake cost the Panthers the game in the critical final seconds. Clinging desperately to a one-point lead with the overtime clock draining toward zero, Ole Brook’s defenders lost track of a Natchez player, who broke clear under the basket without a defender anywhere near him and converted the Bulldogs’ final inbounds pass into a two-point shot for a one-point victory.

“We played a good game and fought back. We just didn’t pull it off and made mistakes,” said Panthers senior guard Richard Marshall.

The game’s statistics reveal no fatal flaw for Ole Brook. The Panthers gathered in 39 rebounds, turned the ball over only 14 times and played fine team ball, feeding teammates with 15 assists. Free throw shooting was a coin flip at 55 percent and three-point shooting — while still not great — improved from late December’s teens to 26 percent.

It was just a tough game between two competitive teams, said Brookhaven coach Marcus Flippin.

“The boys fought hard and I’m proud of them,” he said. “Playing in a district game is hard because everyone in district can play.”

Natchez got off to a fast start in the first, making Brookhaven play from behind before the opening period ended in a tiny Bulldog advantage, 15-14. Ties and lead changes were the theme for the second period, as neither team was able to sustain any momentum. Regardless, the Panthers carved out a 33-31 lead at halftime.

The third period played out the same as the second period, with ties and lead changes keeping both teams even with one another. It was Natchez that was able to handle a small lead this time, starting the fourth quarter ahead of Brookhaven 50-47.

The Bulldogs offense opened up in the final period to extend their lead, but Ole Brook’s defense ripped out enough turnovers to keep themselves in the game and chip away at the lead. Natchez threatened to win in regulation with good rebounding, but Brookhaven rallied late to force overtime with the score tied 72-all.

Natchez struck first in overtime and pushed the lead out to 77-72, but Brookhaven stormed back into the game before all was lost on the final inbounds pass.

Ole Brook had three players shoot double digits. Junior forward Lafollette Bogan led the Panthers with 29 points. Junior forward John Hilbert hit 22 points. Marshall netted 13 points, and senior Guard Keith Robinson shot eight points.

Junior guard Axavian Jones hit six points, while junior guard Isaiah Wall and sophomore forward Kadarius Wells had two points each.

Natchez had four players hit double digits. Tizzy Holmes led the Bulldogs with 32 points. Chad Woods and Malvin Myles each hit 15 points. Charles Credit shot 12 points. Christin Willams netted 10 points. James Singleton finished the night with two points.

The loss drops Brookhaven to 9-9 on the season and 0-1 in region play. The Panthers take on Jefferson County in a non-region game tonight in Brookhaven.

Natchez will also be in action tonight as they host North Pike.

Story by Dave Linton