Lorenzo Wright believes it was two early wakeup calls that may have turned around his Pascagoula Panthers’ young season.
Hattiesburg delivered the Panthers a 62-57 loss on Nov. 16. Two games later ‘Goula (5-3) was hit with a 79-66 defeat courtesy of Brother Martin.
A year ago the Panthers were able to get the ball to standout Noel Jones and let him do the rest — playing the role of “hero,” as Wright put it last week. With Jones now at East Mississippi, that’s no longer an option.
“It’s a bit of an adjustment because a lot of times last year Noel had the ball and everyone else stood around and watched,” Wright said Monday. “You have kind of have to redefine who you are when key guys graduate.”
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The light bulb finally went off in their next game at Gulfport (3-4) as the Panthers topped the Admirals 64-56. Pascagoula followed it up with an impressive 56-40 win over Mobile’s Faith Academy (8-3) last Friday.
“I think some of the guys overlooked teams the schedule and thought we could just show up to win and that’s not going to be the case with this schedule we have this year,” Wright said. “We have been preaching it all year. Finally after the game against Brother Martin we settled down and executed the game plan: Keep it simple, move the ball and look to attack.”
Wright believes his Panthers are eight or nine players deep once they play as a cohesive unit, which has been the case the last couple of weeks.
“On any given night any one of those guys can lead the team,” Wright said. “ It’s a who’s hot at the right time. More than anything, it’s a team thing. It’s about Pascagoula and playing for the next guy.”
Jonas Burley, Eric Smith, D’yasmond Booker are just a couple of the players Pascagoula has turned to in recent weeks. Soon enough the Panthers will get a boost when Jayden McCorvey returns to the court after missing the start of the season due to illness.
The 6-foot-4 junior point guard has already drawn interest from Southeastern Louisiana, Wichita State, Florida State and Samford, among other schools, for his well-rounded game.
“He’s definitely a game changer because we can do so many things with him like post him up against smaller guards or put him on the wing,” Wright said. “He does a little bit of everything. He does it all.
“He’s real smart with the ball and knows when to pass it. He defends, rebounds.”
Wright said he’s hopeful to get McCorvey back by the Christmas break.
“That would be a great Christmas gift,” Wright said with a laugh.
The Panthers will arguably have their biggest test to date on Tuesday when they visit No. 1 Biloxi for a 7:30 p.m. start.
The Indians head into the tilt 12-0, fresh off a convincing 62-37 win over No. 6 Ocean Springs (6-5).
“That’s a tough one,” Wright said. “It’s going to take an absolute team effort to slow down Biloxi. Coach (Seber) Windham is going to have them ready to play. His Biloxi teams are going to defend, rebound and take charges.
“They’ll be ready to get after it so we have to match their energy and effort.”
Wright’s particularly impressed with Biloxi’s scoring depth from players like Dillyn Neely, Dontavius Proby and Jordan Montgomery, to name a few.
“They have so many guys who can shoot,” he said. “He makes a sub and all of a sudden you have to guard three shooters on the court at the same time instead of two.
“They’re like the Golden State Warriors.”
Sun Herald Boys Top 10
1. Biloxi (30)
2. Harrison Central (27)
3. Pascagoula (22)
4. Picayune (21)
5. St. Martin (17)
6. Ocean Springs (15)
7. Gautier (12)
8. Gulfport (11)
9. Stone (7)
10. D’Iberville (2)
Dropped out: Long Beach (0; 2-4; 10)
Receiving votes: West Harrison (1; 3-4; NR)
Sun Herald Girls Top 10
1. Harrison Central (30)
2. St. Martin (27)
3. Hancock (24)
4. Ocean Springs (19)
5. Pass Christian (17)
6. East Central (16)
7. Gulfport (14)
8. Pearl River Central (8)
9. Biloxi (5)
10. Long Beach (4)
Dropped out: Picayune (1; 4-5; T9)