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Lady Panthers shoot past Provine in Sinclair Gymnasium

The Brookhaven High Lady Panthers (6-1) looked like a team comfortable playing on their homecourt Thursday as they shot the ball with confidence in a 74-46 win over Provine (4-1) in Sinclair Gymnasium.

The Lady Rams came into the game unbeaten, but the BHS press smothered them early in jumping ahead 8-0. BHS led 17-10 at the end of the quarter.

In the second quarter, the visitors made adjustments as they handled the BHS pressure better and began to squeeze senior standout Snudda Collins when she had the ball for the Lady Panthers.

There was a period of sloppy play in the second quarter where the teams traded turnovers, but Provine began to speed Brookhaven up and made a run to cut the lead.

A Provine steal and layup made the score 25-24 and forced BHS coach Preston Wilson to call a timeout midway through the second quarter.

The Lady Panthers responded with the 3-point shot as Collins hit a corner three coming out of the TO and then senior Lulu Cook followed her with another score from deep to give BHS breathing room again as they led 41-27 at halftime.

Collins led BHS with an efficient 24 points as she let the game come to her and scored in a variety of ways. With former Lady Panther forward Tamia Stallings now playing at Jacksonville University, the presence of the 6-foot-1 Collins inside rebounding will be a bigger necessity for the team this season.

Collins — an Ole Miss signee — is joined in the starting lineup by a pair of returnees in junior point guard Ashanti Louis and senior shooter Ayanna McNairy.

McNairy is a Mississippi Gulf Coast signee and chipped in 12 points. Her play on the front line of the Panther press is a tone setter for the BHS pressure.

Louis is a safety valve for her teammates as they look for her to be the one controlling the ball for BHS when games get tight. She also rebounds the ball much bigger than her 5-foot-5 height.

“She’s our engine,” said Wilson. “Her decision making has a huge factor in how the game goes for us.”

Louis scored 11 points and Cook added six. Cook and 5-foot-11 sophomore Denaejah Williams joined the three returning starters in the first five for Wilson. William scored five points.

A strong point of the BHS team last season was the depth in the second five. The Lady Panthers came at teams in waves on their way to a 27-2 record.

Cook was in that group last season along with a stable of small quick guards that excelled at keeping the opposition playing fast. Most of those reserves were lost to graduation, so building depth on the bench has been a big emphasis for Wilson.

Thursday freshmen Alexis Kelly and Angel Wilkinson, sophomores Kyja Willis and Aniyah Cook, junior Genesis Frazier and senior Jayla Henry all saw time in the BHS second unit.

“Finding who’s going to fill in those roles is something that we’re still working through,” said Wilson. “Tonight, it was Kyja who came in and gave us some good minutes with her effort.”

Willis scored back-to-back layups off the press in the first half for the Lady Panthers but missed much of the second half after being fouled hard while shooting a layup. Willis finished with eight points.

Henry scored four points, Alexis Kelly added three points and Wilkinson rounded out the BHS scoring with one point. The Lady Panthers made seven 3-pointers as a team, a result that pleased their coach.

“We haven’t shot the ball well all season,” said Wilson. “We beat South Pike on Tuesday night (35-31) despite shooting 24 percent. Tonight, we executed our game-plan and the girls played well.”

BHS will be back in action Monday and Tuesday at Lawrence County. The Lady Panthers play Crystal Springs (4-0) Monday at 4 p.m. and then 6A Terry (3-2) Tuesday at the same time.