Panthers secure No. 2 spot in the districtBy CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,
After a battle of wits and endurance on the basketball court, the Yazoo County Panthers pulled out a big 77-75 conference win over St. Andrews last Friday.
This win improves Yazoo County's record to 13-8 for the season, and currently ranks them at #2 in the district with a conference record of 4-2.
Having fallen to the Saints in a close 66-65 game earlier in the season, Coach Torrey Dale and the Panthers knew they would have to out-wit and out-condition this equally matched team.
"The whole goal was to just wear them down and see if they were better conditioned, or in better shape than we were," he said.
Dale said that the Panthers started out the first quarter slowly, and quickly fell behind 9-17.
"We didn't have some shots fall," he said, "We had some guys who were just out of sync, and sometimes it takes us a while to lock into the game."
The second quarter however, proved that the panthers can bounce back under pressure, and soon caught up with a score of 17-20.
Dale said that one of his strategies was to guard St. Andrews very accurate outside shooters, while also working to protect the rim from their best player on the inside.
St. Andrews took over again later in the second quarter with multiple three point shots from outside the paint, changing the score to 25-20.
The final minutes of the first half became a battle of strength and wits, as both teams went shot for shot at the basket.
A big 3 point shot from Marty Burrell tied the game 27-27, making all of the Yazoo County fans present jump to their feet.
The battle on the court continued, but when the half-time buzzer rang, St. Andrews was leading 38-37.
Using the half-time break to the teams advantage, Dale rested his players while reminding them of the importance of this game and playing smarter as a team.
"My message at half-time was asking them who can execute the best, because possession and execution is what was going to win this game." he said. "We needed to stop making those small mistakes like not taking charge, or trying to block the shot, or not boxing out."
St. Andrews seemed to have had a boosting conversation of their own, coming out hot at the start of the 3rd quarter with three point shots all around the Panthers.
The Yazoo County boys continued to put on more pressure on defense, dropping 3 point shots of their own, plus executing free throws at every given opportunity.
Midway through the 3rd quarter, the game was tied once again at 44-44.
For the rest of the 3rd quarter, free throw shots dominated the game, and County finally took the lead 57-56.
More three point shots from St. Andrews soon turned the tables again, and the Saints closed out the third quarter leading 63-59.
With several St. Andrews players in foul trouble, Dale changed his strategy with the Panthers, who quickly took control of the ball early in the 4th quarter.
A few well aimed shots by Marty Burrell and Lekevion Dixon and the panthers were leading 67-63.
Rotating their lead shooters back in, the Saints soon caught up again 67-67 about mid-way through the 4th quarter, determined not to lose this conference match-up.
More fouls by both teams lead to more and more free throws, making the spectators anxious, and the game was constantly tied or at a one-point difference.
Finally, with about 20 seconds left in the final quarter, St. Andrews players made a grave mistake in passing, throwing the ball out of bounds, and putting the ball back into the hands of the Panther offense.
The game was tied 75-75, and Dale called the team into a quick time-out huddle.
Dale said that the team devised a strategy for the win, and put it into play.
The Panthers took possession of the ball, and making that quick play, Marty Burrell drove the ball straight into the paint, making the final basket with less than three seconds left, securing a big win for the Panthers with a score of 77-75.
"St. Andrews beat us by one point over at their place, so for us to sneak by with 2 and take that #2 spot is big on all levels," Dale said. "For us to do that, after all we have been through, you have got to give these boys respect because they aren't going home without a fight."
Marty Burrell led in scoring with 26 points for Yazoo County. Lekevion Dixon came in second with 24 points, while Kejuan Frierson had 12, and Jhamarrio Bassett had 8.
Standing out on defense for the Panthers were Lekevion Dixon with several blocks, and Jhamarrio basset with 6 rebounds a big steal.