It was smooth sailing into the second round of the Class 4A playoffs for the Bay High boys Tuesday night.
The Tigers (25-5) thumped South Pike 62-41 at the Tiger Dome to set up a home game against Northeast Lauderdale at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The winner will advance to play in the Class 4A quarterfinals in Jackson on March 1.
“Northeast Lauderdale, they’ve got a good team,” Bay High coach Randy McCrory said. “They made it to Jackson last year and return four out out of five starters. It’s a good little challenge.”
Northeast Lauderdale (14-14) also had it easy Tuesday night, thumping Forrest County AHS 68-46.
After rallying to beat South Pike 57-50 on Dec. 28 in McComb, Bay High had a much easier time of it Tuesday night.
The Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game and South Pike never truly threatened the rest of the way. After Bay High began with the 10-0 run, the closest the Eagles got the rest of the way was 10-3 with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
“We were very fired up. We were prepared for it,” Bay High senior forward Galen Smith Jr. said after the win.
Galen and his brother, Tolu, both had big nights for Bay High. Tolu had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Galen put up 12 points and eight rebounds.
Southern Miss assistant coach Clarence Weatherspoon, Southeastern Louisiana head coach Jay Ladner and Northwestern State assistant Jeff Moore were all on hand to watch the Smith brothers play. Southeastern Louisiana is the only program that has offered scholarships to the two players to this point.
Tolu left the game in the second quarter when he suffered some discomfort in his knee following a failed attempt at a dunk, but he returned to finish out the game strong with 10 points in the third quarter.
“He was a little injured early in the year,” McCrory said. “I don’t know if he’s completely 100 percent. He banged up his knee, but he’s a tough kid. He knows how to play through pain. He was able to persevere tonight.”
While the Smith brothers were active in the paint, Bay High also got good production out of its backcourt.
Ke’Saun Laneaux scored Bay High’s last 11 points of the first half, including three 3-pointers, to give the Tigers a 32-20 lead at the break.
That balance on offense is a boost for Bay High at a crucial time in the season.
“That’s huge for us,” McCrory said. “Ke’Saun Laneaux came off the bench and hit three 3-pointers in the first half. He’s really developing into a good basketball player. He’s a good outside shooter. That just helps when you have good balance. When guys are making some outside shots, that loosens up the inside.”
After playing South Pike early in the season, Bay High knew what to expect Friday night and it paid off.
“We knew that they were going to trap and pinch in on us more on the 2-3 (zone defense),” Galen Smith Jr. said. “Coach had us prepared for that and if they wanted to go against us man, we’d kill them.”
Even with the dominant effort, Galen Smith Jr. believes his team can do much better and his coach agrees.
“There’s always room to improve,” McCrory said. “There’s something we can take away from this game to get better at. That’s the hunger we’re talking about. We’re never satisfied. We try to get that edge.”