Panthers continue winning streak

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

The Yazoo County boys basketball team continued its winning streak last Thursday after defeating Choctaw Central 59-44 in their first home game of the season.  The Panthers now hold a 3-0 record in what looks to be another season to remember.

The Panther's started off this year with a new head coach, Torrey Dale, who plans to keep the team's system going after last year's success.

Following Yazoo County's first two wins over 6A schools Northwest Rankin and Brandon High School, Dale said he feared these boys would be in for a let-down due to post-game fatigue.

"I knew we were running off of high emotion on Wednesday and I was kind of worried about a let-down tonight," he said. "A lot of these guys also knew it would be their last first time running out on this floor, so I think they were more or less excited about this game too.  For us to be able to keep calm and not get too big for the moment, and to grip this one out, I was really impressed."

Dale said that the Panther's started out the game slowly, but were able to keep a lead of 14-10 by the end of the first quarter.

"We came out kind of flat and we just didn't hit a lot of shots," he said.

The Yazoo County boys continued to battle against a tough Choctaw Central defense, and were leading 29-23 at half time.

"We played a good defensive team," Dale said. "They are one of the best in the business but they kind of matched us perfectly.  Everything they threw at us we threw right back at them."

After a brief rest in the locker room, the Panthers came back out to the court ready to get ahead of the game and finish strong.

"The third quarter is what we really pride upon," Dale said. "While other teams are trying to get their second wind, we are coming out already settled in and are ready to play some basketball.  It becomes a different ballgame."

During the third Quarter, the Panthers took the offensive and widened the gap on the scoreboard to 46-29, fighting through Choctaw Central's tough defense.

By the time Yazoo County entered into the 4th Quarter, the Warriors had gained their second wind and were applying even more pressure to the Panthers.

"We had a lot of fouls in the 4th quarter," Dale said. "They made us play fast too, but fortunately we were able to handle it.  Good defense like Choctaw Central's is designed to frustrate you so you can't make the plays you want."

Despite the pressure and frustration from the Warriors, the Panthers kept fighting and finally pulled out with a win of 59-44 over Choctaw Central.

Dale said that he was proud of his team for fighting through to the end, but believes that the offense could have performed better in this game.

"I am not going to take anything away from our defense," he said. "I think we did a great job rebounding tonight and forcing them to take shots that they didn't want to take. Our offense could have been ten times better than what I saw tonight, but I will chalk that up to fatigue because we have had a lot of tough games back to back."

Standing out for the Panthers in this game were Martarious Burrell with 24 points, Lakevion Dixon with 12 points, and JhaMario Bassett with 12 points and 8 rebounds.

"Marty is always going to stick out," Dale said. "He is just that guy that figures it out and is always going to be the guy that calms us down then we are doing too much."

Dale added that other players like Kejuan Frierson, Hunter Barron, and John Lewis are all equally important to the team as a part of the starting line-up.

Going forward, Dale said that the Panthers will have more work to do to become better as a team.

"We have to work on our selflessness," he said. "I think we just need to rechannel our focus on what the ultimate goal is, which is to win as a team."

The Panthers next will host 6A Murrah High School at home on Nov. 19.