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BHS makes long-delayed home debut in Sinclair Gymnasium

It’s been 323 days — but Friday the Brookhaven High Panthers are coming back to Sinclair Gymnasium for their home debut on the hardwood.

The last time BHS played in Sinclair was Feb. 21, 2020. That night both Panther teams faced Natchez in a pair of MHSAA 5A playoff matchups.

Ole Brook head boys’ coach Marcus Flippin and his team were eliminated 72-63 by the visiting Bulldogs almost a year ago and coach Preston Wilson and his Lady Panthers rolled over Natchez 79-53 to reach the state quarterfinals.

The Lady Panthers finished the season with a 28-4 record and were 5A state runners-up to Columbus.

That state championship game happened on March 6 in Oxford and the dominos of sporting events being canceled and school moving to at-home learning due to the pandemic fell soon after.

Expectations were high for Flippin and his crew ahead of this season as they returned one of the most talented players in the area in senior guard LaDarius Thrasher.

The BHS girls’ team has also hoped to reload and not rebuild despite losing All-State forward Snuda Collins to graduation.

The 2020-2021 season began with BHS playing at North Pike on Nov. 3 and then at Brandon High on Nov. 5.

Against North Pike the BHS boys grabbed a 62-42 win behind 19 points from junior guard Demeriuntia Jackson. 6A Brandon took a 75-51 victory later in the week despite a 29-point outing from Thrasher.

The girls’ games followed a similar script as the Lady Panthers won 41-37 over North Pike. Sophomore guard Angel Wilkinson led BHS with 15 points in the win.

Wilkinson and junior Kyja Willis each scored 10 points against Brandon, but the Lady Bulldogs overpowered Brookhaven for a 59-37 win.

The North Pike games might have been wins on the court for BHS, but the Panthers took a loss as they found out that a North Pike player had tested positive for COVID-19 after the game against Brandon.

BHS was forced into a two-week quarantine after members of the team were confirmed to be positive with COVID-19 after testing.

The plan was for play to resume after a two-week break, but by that time the school was dealing with an increased number of quarantine cases due to exposures from off-campus events.

The coaches and administrators decided to cancel the rest of their non-conference games ahead of Region 5-5A play. Division play began Tuesday with BHS traveling to face West Jones.

Flippin and Wilson have been practicing with their teams ahead of resuming the season and practice does make perfect — but it can also make a team feel stir crazy.

“They’re more than ready to get out there and play against somebody else,” said Wilson. “They’re tired of facing each other day in and day out.”

Both BHS teams will play in Jackson at Provine Saturday in the Ram City Classic. The Lady Panthers meet Forest Hill at noon and the boys will play Forest Hill at 3 p.m.

On Jan. 12 Ole Brook will travel to meet Laurel in Jones County before hosting West Jones on Jan. 15.

The boys’ team is tentatively scheduled to play in the MLK Classic hosted by Lanier on Jan. 18 but plans for that event remain fluid as of right now.

On Jan. 19 BHS will step out of division play and travel to face Natchez. The final pair of region games will take place on Jan. 22 at home against Laurel and Jan. 29 on the road at South Jones.

The schedule calls for Brookhaven to wrap up regular season on Feb. 5 by hosting Vicksburg.

Tickets for BHS basketball will not be sold at the door. Fans can purchase tickets online by visiting wwww.brookhavenschools.org.