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SP Tiger basketball

Tigers hang tough with No. 1 Jackets

By Brad Greer
For 24 minutes, South Panola had No.1 ranked and undefeated Starkville right where they wanted them.

The Tigers patiently passed the ball around on offense while looking for an open shot then on the defensive side of the ball played a 1-2-1-1 zone defense against six-foot-eight inch ‘Dandy Dozen’ center Latavious Williams and six-foot-nine junior post player Chris Brand.

The game plan payed off as South Panola took a 35-30 lead in the final eight minutes, but as good teams often do, the Yellowjackets  found a way to pull out a 55-47 win Friday night in a District 2- 5A matchup.

While Williams finished with 18 points on the night, it was Edward Townsel that was the catalyst for Starkville as the senior scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth period to lead the charge. Townsel drained a three-pointer to close South Panola’s lead to 39-38 with 5:11 remaining.

But perhaps the biggest play of  the game came at the 4:02 mark when Townsel was fouled on a shot attempt. The official gave Townsel the bucket even though the ball went through the bottom of the net. Townsel  completed the three-point play to knot the score at 41. The Yellowjackets then proceeded to go on a 9-2 run to surge ahead 50-43 with 2:20 left in the contest.

“As soon as the play happened  I turned my back so I did not see him (the referee) make the call,” said Tiger head coach Charlie Howard. I look up and he is at the scorers table counting the basket. Needless to say that was a huge call.”

South Panola, (9-9; 0-2) trailed 24-21 at halftime caught fire in the third quarter by outscoring Starkville 14-6. The Tigers took a 33-30 lead  on a pair of three pointers by Kennon Draper and Rico Key. Antonio Allen’s put back of his own miss at the buzzer widened the lead to 35-38. Allen led the Tigers in scoring with 18 points.

“I was really proud of the way our guys played tonight. Before the game I did not think we could stay on the court with Starkville, but as the game went on you could see our confidence level building. At halftime, I asked them would you be satisfied being down by three and they said no coach we are going to win it. That  just goes to show you what kind of character this team has,” said Howard.

C.J. Raynor added nine points for South Panola while Kennon Draper followed with eight. Antonio Jones and Key rounded out the scoring with six each. The Tigers shot 43 percent from the floor while committing only 13 turnovers on the night.

  South Panola will host Tupelo tonight at 6 p.m. in the second game of a five-game home stand.