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NP Cougar basketball

King of the Jungle

 Cougars down Lions in 74-73 district thriller

By Myra Bean
The three slam dunks by Rosa Fort’s Doral Jackson were not enough as the North Panola Cougars slam dunked a district win 74-73.

A missed slam dunk, which would have given Rosa Fort a late one-point lead and possibly slowed the Cougar momentum, probably contributed to a much -needed surge of energy by the Cougars.

After leading by as many as 12 points, the Cougars faced a determined Rosa Fort Lions team prepared to defend the jungle. This time the teams were in Cougar Country and this jungle cat ruled the day.

With 2.4 seconds to go in the game, Cougar Bruce Wilbourn was fouled going to the basket. The official ruled the foul occurred before the shot and the basket did not count. Therefore, it was up to Wilbourn to make at least one shot for the tie and two for the possible win. Wilbourn, a high percentage free throw shooter, did his job.

The crowd, which had remained seated before the first shot, came to its feet when he sank it. The second free throw brought the roar.

Rosa Fort immediately called a time out before the clock could start to think of a strategy to move the ball down court in 2.4 seconds.

With a switch-a-roo on throwing the ball inbound, Rosa Fort got the shot off a long way before time expired, but being so far behind center court line the ball went into the gymnasium rafters and the Cougars claimed king of the jungle title, at least for one night.

The game started with the teams vying for dominance and the Cougars emerged at the end of the first quarter with a 24-16 lead. The score was tied four times in the first quarter and the lead changed hands four times before the Cougars pulled away.

A three pointer by Rodriquez Thomas with 32.3 seconds left in the first quarter gave the Cougars the lead which lasted until the  fourth quarter. At the half, the Cougars enjoyed a 38-28 lead. The starters who got some relief in the first half had to play the entire second half with little to no bench relief.

The halftime pep talk got the Lions motivated to reclaim the king of the jungle title, but the upstart Cougars had something to say about that. The Lions started  the third quarter with four unanswered points to pull within six, 38-32 with 6:30 on the clock. The Cougars countered with six unanswered points to pull ahead by 12, 44-32 with 5:32 on the clock on a steal by Rico Young and an assist to Thomas for the field goal.

Back-to-back field goals by Tunica, including a dunk by Jackson, brought the Lions right back into the game with 4:44 on the clock. Thomas answered with a three. It was back-and-forth until 49.5 seconds left in the game.

Tunica turned on the jets and out scored the Cougars 6-2 in those final seconds to go into the fourth quarter down 58-50.

The momentum in the fourth quarter continued for the Lions as they outscored North Panola 8-2 to pull within two points, 60-48 with 6:39 left in the game.

Martrevious Sanders got the Lions back into the game when they floundered. The Cougars were using the full court press and the Lions would get the ball to Sanders who was alone on the other side of the court and he scored consistently.

With 5:35 left in the game, Sanders scored and tied the game at 60. A three by Cougars Dexter Robinson gave them a 63-60 lead with 4:52 left. Both teams missed a few field goals and Tunica called a timeout with 4:11 to go.

Tunica scored with 4:05 left and got the ball back. Jackson missed the dunk which would have given the Lions the lead. Tunica got the ball back, but turned it over on a double dribbling penalty.

Robinson penetrated to the low post area and scored with 3:33 to go and gave the Cougars a little breathing room with a 65-62 lead. Thomas stole the ball and scored with 3:16 left for the 67-62 lead. Tunica answered at 3:01. The Cougars turned the ball over when it went out of bounds and the Lions tied the score on a three at 67-67 with 2:21 left. Wilbourn hit one of two free throws for the 68-67 lead with 2:00 left.

On a Tunica field goal, they retook the lead 68-69. Thomas’ two free throws gave the Cougars back the lead and it went back and forth again. With 1:17 left, Rosa Fort stole the ball and Sanders scored to give them the lead 71-70.

With 34.4 seconds left, Tunica missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw. With 23.9 seconds left, Robinson found Wilbourn on an assist and Wilbourn scored for the 72-71 lead. With 13.8 seconds left, Tunica was able to score again for the 73-72 lead, which led to the Wilbourn free throws for the win.

Wilbourn and Thomas led the Cougars with 20 points each. Robinson added 16 and Aldrick Russell chipped in 12. Young rounded out the scoring with six.

Jackson led the Lions with 17 points, followed by Sanders with 17, William Dunn with 14 and Antonio Watson with 12.

The Cougars hosted Marks Palmer Saturday night in non-conference action. The Cougars will be back home tonight to host Senatobia in district action beginning at 6 p.m.