February 17, 2018 11:38:11 PM
By Hunter Sciara
Special to The Dispatch
The West Lowndes High School girls and boys basketball teams won the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 1A, Region 6 district championships Friday night at home.
In the girls game, Ariel Boswell had 13 points in a 40-35 victory against Vardaman.
In the nightcap, Zack Tucker had 12 points to lead the West Lowndes boys to a 50-39 victory against Noxapater.
The West Lowndes boys regrouped after scoring only five points in the first quarter to build a lead in the third quarter. The Panthers used their defense to block shots and to force turnovers to remain in control and help avenge their only loss in the district to the Tigers.
Dalen Rodgers had two of the blocked shots to go with nine points. West Lowndes first-year head coach Nick Christy said Rodgers is a valuable part of the team because he can start or come off the bench.
"He's a versatile player," Christy said. "He can help us stretch the ball on the offensive end with his length, but he's a little more of a defensive player."
At the end of the first half, Noxapater hit two free throws with seven seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, West Lowndes' Jalen Brewer (seven points) weaved through the defense around mid court and pulled up just behind the 3-point line. The ball left Brewer's hand just before the time expired, rattled the back of the rim, and went through to give the Panthers a five-point halftime lead.
Christy said the shot gave West Lowndes a lift in the second half.
"It gets us amped up, but it's also a good point for us to settle down after the fact," Christy said. "We could go in and address some issues we were having on defense."
The Panthers used that momentum to go on a 9-2 run in the third quarter that they preserved to win the title.
Christy said West Lowndes will work in practice to get more efficient on offense in time for its first-round playoff game against Piney Woods at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"We talk about taking high-percentage shots and sometimes we get going with the crowd a little," Christy said. "We stress high-percentage shots, open shots. The closer we get to the rim the better chance it has of going in."
In the girls game, Boswell had eight points in the second half and kept the ball in her hands to ensure the Lady Panthers' victory.
West Lowndes coach Takia Bozeman said she has confidence in Boswell's ability to lead the team.
"She's a senior this year. She knows that, and she plays like it's her last game every game," Bozeman said.
Boswell and sophomore Ashanti Williams combined for the game's final 12 points. Their clutch play, specifically at the free-throw line, helped West Lowndes secure a No. 1 seed.
Bozeman hopes Williams can continue to play like she did Friday night.
"Even though she's just a sophomore, I'm looking for big things from her in the future," said Bozeman, who is excited about her team being a No. 1 seed. "It's great. We're sitting great with home-court advantage all the way to Jackson."
The West Lowndes girls will play host to Sebastopol at 7 Monday night, while the West Lowndes boys will play host to Piney Woods at 7 Tuesday night.
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