Tray Lucious (10) drives to the basket for West Lowndes Tuesday night. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
February 20, 2018 10:31:28 PM
By Amber Dodd
Special to The Dispatch
Team ball and outstanding defense helped the West Lowndes Panthers defeat the Piney Woods Tornadoes 63-47 to advance to the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 1A playoffs.
A jumbled start for both teams held up any rhythm in the game. This allowed both offenses to advance the ball. Piney Woods' Jamal Harper and West Lowndes' Qua Sanders went toe-to-toe on the offensive side, keeping their teams in the game while trading buckets. Ahkia Terry's buzzer beater layup made the difference as the Tornadoes led 33-31 at halftime.
West Lowndes' Head coach Nick Cristy knew to focus on defense to pull away in the second half. Players acknowledged their lackluster energy to keep Piney Woods on their heels.
"We had to get back to guarding people and playing the kind of defense we play here at West Lowndes." Cristy said.
Cristy called on post players for scoring options and spread Piney Woods' man-to-man defense. Jaqualin Morris played the role as usual 6-foot-3 forward Daelin Rodgers, who contributed nine points and two blocks, was out sick.
The Panthers found a fluid offense as Morris found success in the paint. His defensive rebounds and 11 points helped the Panthers outscore Piney Woods with a 13-0 run in the third quarter. Behind Zack Tucker's 17 points, they outscored Piney Woods 19-8 in the third quarter.
"I had to post up on defense," Morris said. "Coach said they couldn't handle me down low and I had to expect the ball, go in, and get points."
Piney Woods' first points in the fourth quarter came after a jumper with 6:24 to go from Jamal Harper, who kept the Tornadoes into the game. Harper handled the ball and scored a team-high 21 points. It wasn't enough as vital defensive piece Terry fouled out for the Tornadoes while West Lowndes pulled away.
Meanwhile, Morris held presence in the paint capture the win. Turner and Sanders led the perimeter shooting. Thirteen points from four different players helped the Panthers outscore Tornadoes 32-14 in the second half. An improved defense for the second half paid off for the Panthers' victory.
Cristy said the necessary team performance needs to be throughout the entire game. With their fourth consecutive post season appearance, the ambitious Panthers have their eyes set on Jackson. They won't settle for less.
"The deeper you go, the better teams," Cristy said. "We have to have that kind of effort throughout the game."
West Lowndes will host Montgomery County with another trip to Jackson on the line Saturday night.
"We just had to have to keep playing team ball," Turner said. "We'll get right back to Jackson."
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