NP Boys Basketball
By Brad Greer
The North Panola boys basketball team might not win any district or state championships this year, but one thing they can lay claim to is they are Panola County champions.
For the first time since 1995, North Panola and South Panola met on the hardwood in the Northwest Classic at Senatobia High School Friday afternoon as the Cougars bombarded South Panola with 15 three-pointers on their way to a 76-61 victory.
Rodriquez Thomas was on fire as the sophomore connected on eight shots from three point territory to lead the Cougars with 26 points as North Panola (10-6) took a 30-21 halftime lead and never looked back.
“There is not much that I can say. It was just one of those days where it felt like I could not miss. I had been struggling the past few games with my shooting but I think I’ve got my stride back now,“ said Thomas of his performance.
Thomas said one of the keys in the win was the way the team rebounded on both ends of the floor and the play of point guard Marico Young who contributed with 12 points.
“Marico did a great job of running our offense and handling the basketball and Bruce (Wilbourn) was a force on the inside and rebounding the ball,” said Thomas.
South Panola (8-6) was led in scoring by Michael Broadnax with 18 points while freshman Kennon Draper accounted for 16 points. The Tigers were without the services of senior Antonio Allen who missed the last two games due to disciplinary action.
Aldrick Russell started the three point barrage by drilling tres from the right wing to give the Cougars an early 10-6 lead. Dexter Roberson and Young followed with back-to- back three’s to make the score 16-6 after the first quarter.
The lead grew to 30-16 in the second period as Thomas scored nine points, all coming from behind the arch. Draper then cut Cougar lead to nine points at 30-21 on a long range three -pointer at the buzzer.
The second half saw the Tigers get within seven points at 37-30 as Draper drove the lane for two of his points with five minutes left in the period. But that would be as close as South Panola would get as Thomas responded with a three-pointer and Wilbourn accounted for three of his 17 points on the day by completing a three- point scoring opportunity to push the lead to 43-30.
“We just played team ball today. That’s about it. We hit from the outside and inside and played team defense and came up with some turnovers. I like to bang on the inside and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball,” said Wilbourn.
South Panola head coach Charlie Howard said rebounding was a big factor in the game.
“We just did not come ready to play basketball today from the get go. If it was not No. 35 dominated the boards it was No. 1 hitting the threes from the outside. We did not defend well at all. This was the worst man-to-man defensive effort I’ve seen all year. We just did not have it today,” said Howard.
Other scorers for North Panola was Russell with 10 points. Roberson contributed with six while Templeton Hardy and Nikko Heffner added two each and Lenardo Lard rounded out the scoring with one point.
Patrick Howard followed Draper and Broadnax in scoring for the Tigers with six points followed by C.J. Raynor with five, Nick Parker and Quendarious Robinson with four each and Antonio Jones and Rico Key with three while Kerrion Moore added a basket.
North Panola lost its final game of the Expo to Holly Springs Saturday afternoon 79-68.
Wilbourn led the Cougars in scoring with 19 points, followed by four other Cougars in double figures, Robinson 15, Rodriquez and Young, 11 each and Russell 10.
The Cougar teams are in the Water Valley Tournament this week.
North Panola will play Charleston today. The girls will play at 4 p.m. followed by the boys at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, North Panola and Water Valley will play at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., girls first.