NP Cougars basketball
By Brad Greer
With the regular season winding down, the North Panola Cougars were hoping to get some momentum built up Friday night as they head into the District 3 3-A tournament next week.
Despite shooting a torrid 34 percent field goal percentage for the game, including an horrendous 7-of- 23 from the field in the first half, the Cougars fought and scraped their way back into the game by taking a 54-51 lead with under two minutes remaining in the contest – only to have the Wildcats hit nine straight free throws in the final minute to squeak by with a 64-58 district win.
The victory propelled Independence to 4-2 in district play and 16-10 overall while the Cougars fell to 2-3 and 16-10 on the season. North Panola played host to Holly Springs last night on “Senior Night” to close out the regular season.
After trailing the entire night, North Panola took their first lead at 51-50 on a Dexter Roberson driving layup with 1:57 left in the game. Following a Wildcat miss, Marico Young drilled a three-pointer to expand the lead and throw the home crowd into a frenzy, but then D.J. Newson took over.
The Wildcat senior swished a jumper from the top of the key for two of his 13 fourth-quarter points with 1:01 left to give the visitors a 55-54 lead they would never relinquish. Newson connected on three-of-four free throw opportunities while James Buford, Marvin Shorty and Alvin Loveberry hit six straight free throws to seal the win.
Independence was deadly from the charity stripe, connecting on 13-of-16 shots while North Panola hurt themselves by only converting 8-of-20 from the line. Shorty led the Wildcats with 18 points, followed by Newson who added 15 points.
Buford’s three-point shot midway through the second quarter gave the Wildcats a 16-6 advantage. North Panola answered with a 13-6 run to close the gap 22-19 at intermission. Bruce Wilbourn and Aldrick Russell layups fueled the rally.
Both teams went toe-to-toe in the second half as the Wildcats took a 28-20 lead in the third quarter on back-to-back buckets by Shorty. The Cougars retaliated by cutting the lead to 36-33 on a three-pointer by Russell at the buzzer.
Russell led three Cougars in double figures with 15 points, including four three-pointers. Young followed with 14 points while Roberson contributed with 12 markers. Wilbourn and Hardy tacked on eight and seven points while Lenardo Lark added two points.
The Cougars will be back in action at the district tournament which will be held at Northwest Community College February 12 through the 15. The schedule is not available as of presstime, awaiting completion of district games.