SP Tiger basketball
By Brad Greer
Although it was “Senior Night” at South Panola, a pair of underclassmen stole the show as junior Rico Key poured in 14 points while sophomore Nick Parker added eight points coming off the bench and pulled down some key rebounds in the second half as the Tigers downed Clarksdale 59-49 in the regular season finale’ Friday night.
The No. 4 seeded Tigers will open up the Region 2-5A tournament today at 5:30 p.m. in Columbus against No. 1 ranked Starkville. This marks the third meeting of the season between the two schools with the Yellowjackets winning both times in the regular season.
Senior Antonio Allen led the South Panola surge with 16 first-half points, but was held to a single free throw in the second half. Key, meanwhile, had eight second-half points that included a pair of three-pointers in the third quarter.
“This is a good momentum builder heading into the playoffs,” said Tiger head coach Charlie Howard. “We had some guys step up tonight. I was very pleased with the way Nick (Parker) played tonight. We needed that other inside force guy that can get some baskets and he did not do a bad job on defense either. Kerrion Moore did a good job handling the ball and Rico hit some key shots. Antonio had a good first half but I really do not know what happened to him in the second half. It was like he was not with us or something.”
South Panola raced out to a 14-4 lead at the 3:27 mark in the first quarter on a three-pointer by C.J. Raynor. Allen then added two of his 10 first-quarter points on a floater in the lane with less than a minute remaining to give the home team a 20-13 advantage.
Clarksdale cut the lead to 20-18 to start the second period on baskets by Jonathan Fields and Keondre Burton, but South Panola responded by going on a 10-2 run with Moore scoring on an assist from Kennon Draper to make the score 30-20 with 2:33 left before halftime. The Wildcats, (8-15), would not go away however as after a South Panola turnover, Gary Lott drained a jumper at the buzzer to get Clarksdale within four at 33-29 at intermission.
Neither team shot particularly well to open up the second half as they both combined for 5-of- 22 shooting from the floor. Key gave the Tigers a 36-29 lead on a three-pointer in the opening minute of the third quarter.
The lead was extended to 42-33 with 4:02 left as Parker scored off a missed shot. Clarksdale’s first field goal of the quarter came with 1:28 left on a Burton layup.
South Panola took a 40-35 advantage going into the final stanza, but an 11-2 run by the Tigers put the game out of reach. Draper canned a trey while Parker and Key added buckets in the outburst. Colvy Fisher connected three straight three pointers in the final minute to trim the South Panola lead to 10 but by then it was to little to late for the ‘Cats.
Rounding out the scoring for the Tigers were Moore with six points while Raynor added five. Draper contributed with three points and Quendarious Robinson, Pat Howard and Michael Broadnax chipped in with two each.
South Panola shot 51 percent from the floor and nine-of-12 shooting from the free throw line while turning the ball over 12 times. Clarksdale meanwhile connected on 19-of-39 shots from the field for 48 percent.
MHSAA Basketball Playoffs
Division 2-5A At Columbus
5:30 p.m. – (1) Starkville (4) South Panola
8:30 – (2) Tupelo vs. (3) Columbus
7:30 p.m. – Championship game
4 p.m. – (1) Tupelo vs. (4) Starkville
7:00 – (2) South Panola vs. (3) Columbus
6 p.m. – Championship game
At Northwest CC in Senatobia
6 p.m. – (4) North Panola vs. (5) Byhalia
9:00 – (2) Holly Springs vs. (7) Lewisburg
6 p.m. – (3) Independence v s. (6) Senatobia
9:00 – (1) Rosa Fort vs. North Panola/Byhalia winner
7:30 p.m. – Holly Springs/Lewisburg winner vs. Independence/Senatobia winner
6 p.m. – Third/fourth place game
9:00 – Championship game
4:30 p.m. – (4) North Panola vs. (5) Holly Springs
7:30 – (2) Rosa Fort vs. (7) Lewisburg
4:30 p.m. – (3) Independence vs. (6) Byhalia
7:30 – (1) Senatobia vs. North Panola/Holly Springs winner
6 p.m. – Rosa Fort/Lewisburg winner vs. Independence/Byhalia winner
4:30 p.m. – Consolation game
7:30 – Championship game