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Brookhaven Panthers must win every game from now on

After falling to Forest Hill 63-45 in Tuesday night’s Region 6-5A tournament, Ole Brook will be playing for its life from here on out, with the next loss ending the season.

The Panthers will play in the tournament’s consolation game Friday afternoon against Natchez, with tip time at 5:30 p.m. A win there will send Ole Brook on the road in the playoffs beginning next week, but it will be time to hang up the jerseys and put the basketballs on the rack until next season if they cannot prevail against the Bulldogs.

“I promise you, that game is ours,” said Brookhaven senior Richard Marshall. “Now is the time to get serious and play aggressive.”

When told his senior guard had guaranteed victory against Natchez, Brookhaven coach Marcus Flippin was all about it.

“If Richard said so, that’s good enough for me,” he said. “Richard has really stepped up to become the leader of this team, and this is the time to step up.”

Marshall, listed at 5-foot-7, flung himself against the towering monsters in the heart of Forest Hill’s defense over and over Tuesday night. He and junior Lafollette Bogan scored most of Brookhaven’s points, dropping in 16 and 18 points, respectively.

Emotions were high, effort was strong — but it was not enough.

“We played a good game, we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket down in the paint. It rolled in, rolled around and rolled out,” Flippin said. “I think the guys were a little intimidated by the big boys down there.”

The Panthers did a lot of things right in their plan of attack. They crowded the lane for 21 defensive rebounds and protect the ball, giving up only six turnovers.

But not everything worked against the superior size of the Patriots. Forest Hill’s “big boys” soaked up all Ole Brook’s missed shots, allowing the Panthers only 11 offensive boards, and they covered up the passing lanes to hold assists down to five.

Worst of all, Forest Hill limited Ole Brook’s chances to go inside, forcing Panther shooters to fire up 15 three-pointers. They hit only two for 13 percent.

The teams played an even first quarter, with Forest Hill leading 13-10 after eight minutes, but the Patriots hammered Ole Brook hard in the second, outscoring them 15-3.

The Panthers took control in the third quarter — a 13-3 run by Brookhaven closed the score to 31-26 with two minutes remaining in the period. But Ole Brook’s window snapped shut in a blaze of Patriot speed when Forest Hill’s transition game came alive for a 25-17 fourth quarter.

“We came out a little sluggish, but I feel like we kind of picked it up in the second half. But then the tempo went against us,” said Ole Brook sophomore Kadarius Wells. “Friday night against Natchez, we’re going to have to play as a unit. We just have to play our game.”

After Bogan’s 18 and Marshall’s 16, junior Axavian Jones kicked in six points and senior Keith Robinson fired in five. No other Panthers scored.

Forest Hill senior Ladarius Marshall dunked his way to 21 points to lead the Patriots. Sophomore Keondre Montgomery totaled 17 points, and senior Ciderrius Dampeer scored 10. Senior Keontae’ Trotter scored eight, junior Ken Evans scored four and freshman Jayme Mitchell scored three.

Forest Hill will play Wingfield for the Region 6-5A championship Friday night at 8:30 p.m.