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Lady Panthers advance to playoffs at Jackson State

Silentianna Collins is a white-hot shooter on the edge, but Brookhaven likes to take the basketball “inside-out.”

Friday night in the second round of the 5A state playoffs, the Lady Panthers sophomore was inside — and out. She shot from long range, she charged into the lane, she blocked shots and picked up stripped balls, collecting fouls along the way. In a win-or-die playoff game against South Jones, Collins blew up for a team-high 29 points, shooting her team to a narrow 61-58 victory and the right to advance to the state tournament at Jackson State.

“I knew I had to be clutch for my teammates,” Collins said from a crowd of admirers postgame. “That was the only thing on my mind — win. I thought, “I gotta get this win, and not make this game my last.’”

In an offensive shootout that stretched Ole Brook’s defense thin, Collins’ breakout game was essential. She put the Lady Panthers’ first six points on the board, and its critical last five.

With the Lady Panthers trailing by a point with 1:16 remaining in the game, junior Cynphoni Thompson got inside for a shot and a foul, connecting the and-one to put Ole Brook up 55-53. Collins scored the next bucket to make it 58-55, and dropped in a foul shot on the next possession to extend the lead to 59-55.

South Jones hit a three that scared everyone in the gymnasium, bringing the score to 59-58 in favor of Ole Brook. But Collins got the ball and went back to the line, draining two free shots with four seconds remaining in the game to push the score out to the winning tally of 61-58.

The Lady Braves were done.

“Everyone had to get on the court tonight and play smart, and my teammates played very smart,” Collins said. “They made smart plays for us to score.”

South Jones won on the boards, outrebounding the Lady Panthers 34-23, but Ole Brook had fewer turnovers, more steals and more assists. Brookhaven also managed to get eight girls on the court to rest starters and chill those heading toward foul trouble.

The Lady Braves took the first quarter 16-15, but Ole Brook commanded the second 17-12 for a shaky 32-28 halftime lead. The third quarter belonged to South Jones 13-10, and Brookhaven did just enough in a 19-17 fourth to walk off the court victorious.

Collins’ 29 points came off a 47 percent night of shooting, and she was a decisive 77 percent from the free throw line, shooting 10 of 13.

“Silentianna grew up tonight,” said Lady Panthers coach Preston Wilson. “Eight teams are left in 5A. We’re still one of them. We’ll get on the phone and start finding out about our next opponent. Right now, we want to just keep everybody healthy.”

Ole Brook’s next opponent will be Lafayette. The teams will face off Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the state tournament at Jackson State University.

Oxford’s Lafayette High School is having a great season, similar to the Lady Panthers’. The Lady Commodores are 23-6 so far and went undefeated in Region 2-5A. They are on a 13-game winning streak.

But the Lady Panthers are ready.

“If we keep our minds right, play good ball — and good defense — we should go all the way,” said Ole Brook junior Tamia Stallings.

After Collins’ 29 points, Thompson was second with 11. Stallings threw in seven points, while senior Johnique James and junior Dymonde Washington scored four each. James led the team in assists with four. Sophomore Ayanna McNairy and freshman Ashanti Louis scored three each.

South Jones senior Endia Holliday led the Lady Braves in scoring with 20 points. Freshman Mackenzie Thomas scored a dozen, and junior Kelsi Jackson scored eight. Junior Jordan Clark and sophomore Ebony Fulford scored seven points each, while senior Kira Downs and junior Nikia Jones added two points each.