PASCAGOULA — Just like the Pascagoula boys basketball team, 2014 has been very kind to the girls squad.
The Lady Panthers (15-4) have yet to lose a game since the first of the year and have an 11-game winning streak headed into today's game against East Central in the Division 8-5A Tournament.
The Pascagoula boys team also has yet to lose a game in 2014 with a 13-game winning streak as it prepares to take on East Central today.
The Lady Panthers are again the heavy favorite to win the division tournament with no losses against division opponents in head coach LaShonda Smith's three seasons at the school.
The Pascagoula girls are hoping for their second consecutive trip to the Class 5A semifinals in Jackson, where they fell to Canton in the semifinals last year.
KaNosha Fairley, Kesi Bradley, Aliayah Tubbs and Te'ara Thompson are the the top four returning players back from last year's run to Jackson, and Smith has done her best to inform the younger players on what it takes to make it to the state semifinals.
"About two weeks ago, I printed out the bracket and put a little picture of (the Mississippi Coliseum) up there because some kids don't have any idea what the Big House is because they're so young," Smith said. "I talked to them about what the possible match-ups were and said this is what we work towards. It's bigger than a district tournament.
"Nobody cares if you if you win (the division regular season title) and lose the very next game. You'll be sitting at home just like everybody else and you're forgotten about."
Last year's squad had Markeisha Watson as the obvious go-to player on offense. Smith doesn't point to one player who leads the way on offense this season, but she does look to Fairley as the player most likely to take the shot when the game is on the line.
Fairley, a nice outside shooter, embraces that role.
"I know if we need a bucket, I've got to go get it," said Fairley, who averages 12.3 points a game.
Joining Fairley in the backcourt as the primary players are Thompson and freshman Jailin Cherry, who is seeing more minutes as she matures on the court.
"(Cherry) really made a turn in January and I started playing her more and starting her because she became more confident in her ball-handling and understanding game situations," Smith said. "She's helped us a lot"
In the frontcourt, Bradley and Tubbs are the players that Smith relies on the most. Bradley is averaging 9.9 points this season.
The Lady Panthers' wins have come relatively easy in division play, giving second-string players more chances to see playing time.
With the games starting to count more, Smith hopes to see more out of her top players.
"We need to get some consistency," Smith said. "One night, Kesi might give me 14 points. The next night, she might give me six.
"We definitely need to do little stuff better -- being help side on defense, boxing out and rebounding. Right now, we're fine tuning those little things that really make a difference when you want to win a state championship."
The Moss Point and George County girls will start today's 7-5A action at Pascagoula at 4 p.m. while the George County and Gautier boys will wrap up play in the final game of the day at 8:30 p.m.
The girls South State Tournament begins next Monday while the boys begin next Tuesday.