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Panthers display toughness in round 1 victory

North Pike beat Brookhaven soundly in the first game of the 5A MHSAA first-round playoffs, and the Panthers were forced to win two consecutive games with their season on the line to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

They did just that on Monday night as they dominated the Jaguars in a 12-8 victory to put them into the next round against West Jones High School.

It takes a certain type of team to win in the postseason in any sport. You have to be mentally tough, and you can’t really flinch when things go against you.

And things certainly went against Brookhaven on Monday night.

The Panthers issued five walks in the first inning of action on Monday and fell behind by 2-0. They responded and put up two runs in the bottom half.

It got away from the Panthers again in the top of the second, as the first four Jaguar hitters reached base without a hit, and Brookhaven fell behind 6-2 in the bottom of the second.

Some teams, after losing in blow-out fashion to the same team less than a week earlier, panic at the site of a 6-2 deficit.

Brookhaven didn’t. They responded, and they put pressure on North Pike all night long and eventually the Jaguars cracked.

That’s what good teams do. That’s what teams that are poised to make a run in the playoffs do.

“We’ve been doing this all year,” Brookhaven baseball coach Matt White said. “We’ve fallen behind in games, and come back and won them all year. That’s just who we are at this point. We fell behind big to Sumrall, a good baseball program, and came back and run ruled them. We’re relentless, and that’s a good quality to have.”

You don’t win in the playoffs without talent, sure enough, and the Panthers have that in spades up and down their lineup.

Reality is, however, in a sport that’s as fluky as baseball you have to be able to flush bad games. You have to be able to flush failure and defeat, and you have to bounce back.

That’s where Brookhaven was impressive on Monday night. Maybe a team without such leadership would falter at the sight of a 6-2 deficit in a game where you have to win to keep playing.

Not Brookhaven. Not this year.

The Panthers will travel to West Jones on Friday night for what should be a strong 5A playoff series. West Jones has lost two games this season, and are one of the premier programs in 5A along with Hattiesburg and others.

On Monday night, however, Brookhaven’s toughness prevailed and it showed that the Panthers might just have a little to say about who wins 5A’s south-half championship.

Story by Collin Brister