Often times high profile matchups can fizzle instead of sizzle. The buildup to the game is so massive that the contest itself can’t possibly compare to the hype. That certainly wasn’t the case Tuesday night as No. 1 Biloxi and No. 3 Pascagoula didn’t disappoint.
Every shot had weighted importance in the back-and-forth contest with the Indians ultimately edging the Panthers 45-41 at Biloxi’s arena.
“Today was the first day the (Sun Herald) rankings came out where we were No. 1. The kids read the paper. The coaches read the paper. Pascagoula reads the paper,” BHS coach Seber Windham said. “I knew they would come in here ready to beat us.”
Pascagoula (5-4) built a 20-13 lead early in the second frame thanks to balanced scoring from a number of players and took a 23-18 advantage into halftime. Biloxi’s deficit could have been worse but just before the buzzer Dillyn Neely knocked down a high-arching 3-pointer while falling backwards.
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The Indians (13-0) carried that late energy into the second half, out-scoring ‘Goula 11-2 to jump ahead 29-25 for their first sizable advantage of the game.
“We got hot there and Dontavius Proby got some steals that gave us a boost. He’s the one who always gets us going,” Windham said. “That spurt got us to where we needed to be.”
Not to be out-done, three different Panthers scored down the stretch to put the visitors ahead 32-31 going into the final frame.
The two sides traded shots for much of the fourth quarter. After Neely put BHS ahead 41-39, the home team went for the dagger. Biloxi rebounded a Pascagoula miss on the ensuing possession and quickly hit on a home run pass down the court to a streaking Proby.
The savvy BHS guard slowed at the basket, let the Panther defender jump over him and then laid in the decisive basket for a 43-39 lead.
“We talk about transition, getting the ball out and throwing it ahead,” Windham said. “We’ve worked on that. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but we always try to advance the basketball on the pass. He did a good job on it.”
Pascagoula had a chance to at least tie the game shortly after at 43-43 thanks to a 3-on-1 break but failed to convert the opportunity. Biloxi’s Roshaun Jones then made two late free throws to put the win on ice.
“We’re still a work in progress. Everyone wanted to make the big play,” PHS coach Lorenzo Wright said. “Even Eric (Smith) rushed a shot in the middle of the lane that he normally makes in practice. (D’yasmond) Booker rushed a layup he normally makes. They were excited in the moment.”
With the victory, Biloxi improved to 13-0 for the first time since 2011’s Final Four team.
“We have had five teams start out 10-0 since I’ve been here, but we were expected to be that way. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. We have some young guys, and then Dillyn moved over from D’Iberville and Roshan Jones moved over from St. Martin,” Windham said. “You’re looking at a rebuilding year and next thing you know you’re 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, 6-0.
“No one expected us to be here right now so we’re just having fun playing basketball.”
Neely led BHS with 16 points. Booker scored 10 to pace PHS.
Biloxi girls 51, Pascagoula 39: One game after Biloxi tied a season-low with eight turnovers, the Lady Indians turned the ball over a season-worst 33 times and still managed to find a way to win.
There were times BHS coach Devin Hill let his players know about his displeasure, but other times he was more subdued as a courtside observer.
During one particular stretch in the third quarter, a string of turnovers saw Biloxi’s 36-18 lead dwindle to 36-30 .
Hill remained quiet, opting to let his players figure out their mistakes on his own. The tactic worked as his Lady Indians (8-5) ended up scoring the next six points to push back ahead 42-30.
“We’re learning and growing up,” Hill said of his team, which is largely a blend of freshmen, sophomores and inexperienced upper classmen. “We’re definitely still a work in progress. I think you’re a product of how hard you work, so we come into the gym every day. Our girls are accepting the challenge.”
Analya White led BHS with 24 points. She also recorded four steals, two assists and three rebounds. Shyla McGee added 14 points, four steals, four rebounds and three assists.
Pascagoula is also inexperienced after graduating six seniors, including all five starters from a year ago. The youth has shown during an 0-5 start, but coach Crisla Herchenhan came away from Tuesday’s game optimistic.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. That’s probably the best basketball game we’ve played all year against a pretty athletic Biloxi team,” she said. “It actually looked like a basketball game so I was proud of that.”
Tyesha Turner converted four threes to lead PHS with 23 points.