PASCAGOULA -- An emotional Pascagoula squad closed out strong Friday night to top Moss Point 61-51 and take the season series between the two heated rivals.
It was senior night at Pascagoula and the Panthers' fiery play mirrored first-year coach Ronald Norman.
He was as exuberant as he has been all season, rooting on his team and letting out the occasional yell when the Panthers (19-6) hit a big 3-pointer.
There was a reason for his court-side antics as his team pushed its win streak to 13.
"If I'm not enjoying it, the kids won't," Norman said. "If I'm uptight, my kids are uptight. My kids showed me the first game of the year they weren't frontrunners. Down 18, we beat St. Martin. Down again against Gautier, we come back and win.
"These kids have got resiliency. I love them and they're kind of buying into my mentality and we're just doing it the 'Goula way."
On Pascagoula's senior night, Bobby Nettles again proved the steady veteran for the Panthers with 16 points while fellow senior point guard La'Datren Deas, who still managed 10 assists, battled foul trouble for much of the game.
"It was my last regular season game," Nettles said. "We just tried to come out and get the win."
Norman pointed to Nettles as the main difference in his team after losing 60-51 at Moss Point on Dec. 6. The senior guard missed a lot of practice early in the season because of his advanced placement class schedule. Once he returned to practice on a full-time basis at the first of the year, the Panthers started a hot streak.
A pair of underclassmen, sophomore Jacques Belford and junior Montray Shepard, were key for the Panthers in the second half.
Shepard's 3-pointer with 1:43 left in the third quarter gave Pascagoula a 40-39 lead that it would not relinquish.
Shepard hit two more fourth-quarter 3-pointers to put all of the momentum on the Pascagoula side.
"I was just feeling it," he said. "It felt good coming off my fingers and it just went in."
Belford was strong in the final moments of the game, scoring seven points in the final 3:30 on his way to a team high of 19 points.
Pascagoula's depth allowed it to pull away late in the contest.
"They wore us down and were real physical on defense," Moss Point coach Melvin Booker said. "About the fourth quarter, our kids didn't have any legs. But we fought, that was a great game."
Moss Point star guard Devin Booker was held to one point in the first quarter and didn't have a field goal until the 5:57 mark of the third quarter.
Despite his sluggish start, Devin Booker still managed to put up 32 points by scoring 25 of his team's 26 points in the second half.
Moss Point played Friday without starting point guard Marcus Watson, who had to sit out after being ejected from the previous game against Poplarville. He will also have to sit out the first half in the first game of the division tournament.
Pascagoula will play East Central at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the first round of the Division 7-5A tournament while Moss Point (14-14) will wait until 5:30 p.m. Thursday for its second round opponent thanks to a bye.