| By Myra Bean
The South Panola Tiger basketball team (9-4 overall, 1-1 district) can go and have a great Christmas holiday after defeating Olive Branch (9-3) 64-63 Thursday on the road in a key district matchup.
The Tiger team members were very upbeat prior to the game, but that almost seemed premature as Olive Branch jumped out to a 15-10 first quarter score.
South Panola did not even score until 5:41 of the first quarter on a Larico Treadwell field goal.
In reality both teams had a little trouble getting the ball to fall as this was a very physical and emotional matchup for the teams.
It was another player off the bench who led the Tigers in scoring, senior Rodney Gray who had 13 points. Gray just joined the team last week at the conclusion of the football season. He was a member of the Tiger state championship football team.
Three more Tigers scored in double figures to help secure the Tiger win. Shawn Daniels chipped in 12 points, followed by Jarred Pope with 11 and Joseph Hankins with 10.
After Olive Branch went up 7-2 on a steal and field goal, it was a slam dunk by Hankins which brought the Tigers back within three points. That margin was short-lived as Olive Branch was able to convert more baskets than the Tigers.
Olive Branch had pulled out to a 13-5 lead but a free throw by Anthony Nelson, and an offensive rebound and subsequent basket by Daniels, closed the gap 13-8 with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers took the lead for the first time in the second quarter with 6:03 left on the clock on an offensive rebound and field goal by Nelson, 16-15. Nelson missed the possible three point play on the free throw but Daniels stole the ball and scored with 5:39 left in the first half to go up 18-15.
Olive Branch kept the game within one to three points. The Conquistadors, "Quistors," tied the game at 22 with 3:34 left to go on a three-pointer and retook the lead on two free throws 24-22. They went back up 26-23 with 2:42 left in the half.
The Tigers were able to capitalize on some turnovers by the Quistors and retook the lead on a Hankins offensive rebound and field goal with 1:42 left in the half.
The Tigers took a 29-28 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, the lead changed hands five times in the first three minutes and 13 seconds.
Olive Branch hit a three-pointer to take the lead in the opening basket 31-29. Hankins tied the score at 31 on a field goal.
The Tigers pulled away on two consecutive three-pointers by Pope 37-35 with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
A steal by Treadwell and basket by Daniels gave them some breathing room at 39-35 with 4:28 on the clock. Olive Branch was by no means out of the game.
The Quistors pulled back within two points at the 3:56 mark 39-37, but the Tigers went on a 10-2 scoring spree and led by 10 points, 49-39 with 45.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Quistors scored the final basket of the third quarter but the Tigers still lead 49-41.
Both of the teams’ huddles produced some results in the fourth quarter. The teams were each determined they would exit this game the winner.
Olive Branch stepped up its defense to strip the ball from the Tigers and pulled within four points, 56-52 with 3:00 left in the game.
The Tigers were in a scoring slump for about a minute and a half but thankfully to the Tigers Olive Branch was feeling some of that slump.
It was South Panola’s Justin Vaughn who scored all six of his points in the final 2:39 of the game to keep the Tigers afloat. Vaughn hit a field goal and sank four of four free throws.
The Tigers led 62-56 after Vaughn’s free throws with 47.7 left in the game.
The Quistors stole the ball and scored with 20.6 seconds to cut the lead 62-58.
Pope hit a free throw with 18.1 seconds left for a 63-58 lead. The Quistors countered with a field goal at the 14 second mark to cut the Tiger lead to 63-60.
Olive Branch fouled Rod Moore with 9.9 seconds left on the clock and he hit one of two for the 64-60 or two possession lead.
Olive Branch scored the final points on a three-pointer with 3.3 seconds left in the game. The Quistors said they tried to stop the clock with one second left but the official overrode it and declared the game over.
The Tigers are on holiday break and will return to action next year in the Oxford tournament January 5-7.