After having their run of six consecutive trips to Jackson come to an end a year ago, the Pascagoula Panthers celebrated at midcourt Saturday night at Biloxi High School.
Pascagoula pulled away for a 67-54 victory to hand Biloxi (27-3) only its third loss of the season and clinch a spot in the Class 6A quarterfinals at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Pascagoula (21-7) will play Greenville (21-6) at 5:30 p.m. on March 3.
“It’s real sweet,” Pascagoula coach Lorenzo Wright said. “We dropped the ball last year. We missed an opportunity by losing in district. To fight and get back is real sweet.”
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A 48-44 loss to rival Gautier on the first day of the Region 8-5A tournament sidetracked Pascagoula last year, forcing the Panthers to beat Long Beach just to clinch a spot in the postseason as the No. 3 seed. Jackson-Provine beat Pascagoula 73-60 in the first round, ending their season well short of a trip to Jackson.
When Pascagoula fell 50-44 to Ocean Springs last week in the Region 8-6A title game, it seemed as if the Panthers would again come up short of reaching Mississippi’s version of the Elight Eight.
Instead, Pascagoula thumped Pearl 79-63 in the first round on Tuesday and then played possibly its best game of the season at Biloxi Saturday night.
“It was our best game defensive game of the season,” Wright. “We did a great job of closing out and finding Dillyn Neely and all their other shooters. They have so many of them. We did a great job of buying into the game plan and contesting shots all night.”
Jayden McCorvey, a 6-foot-4 wing, led Pascagoula with 19 points and D’yasmond Booker added 16 points.
“It means a lot,” McCorvey said of his team’s win. “We didn’t want to go through that again so we worked hard and we’re back here again.”
Dontavius Proby led Biloxi with 15 points and Neely added 13 points.
Joining the Panthers
Pascagoula won’t be the only Coast boys squad headed to Jackson. Harrison Central clinched its second consecutive trip to the state quarterfinals with a strong second half, winning 60-45 at Ocean Springs on Saturday night. Stone High is also headed to Jackson after thumping Pearl River Central 75-57 in Wiggins.
Dajon Whitworth, a senior guard who is playing his final games at Harrison Central, put on a show against Ocean Springs, pouring in 20 points.
The Red Rebels (19-9) will have to hope last season’s experience in Jackson will have them better prepared to make the trip this year. Callaway thumped Harrison Central 75-60 at Jackson State in the Class 6A quarterfinals last season.
Stone High was led Saturday night by 19 points from Enrique Whaley and 18 from Cameron McDonald.
Stone High (24-5) is the most unlikely Coast team making the trip to Jackson. The Class 5A Tomcats hadn’t had a winning season since 2009-10.
Harrison Central will play Starkville (22-3) at 8:30 p.m. on March 3 at the Mississippi Coliseum and Stone High will play Callaway (24-5) at 5:30 p.m. on March 2 in the same spot.
The only other Class 5A Coast team remaining Saturday night, Long Beach, fell 67-54 at Hattiesburg.
Bay High (20-11) fell 65-62 to Jackson-Lanier and South Pike beat Pass Christian 61-34 to prevent the Coast from sending a Class 4A squad to Jackson.
In Class 2A, Madison-St. Joseph beat St. Patrick 61-34.
Two girls teams left
Two Class 6A squads are the only girls teams who will be competing in the quarterfinals this week in Jackson — St. Martin and Gulfport.
Led by 6-foot-4 Mississippi State signee Daphane White, St. Martin (25-3) will play Starkville (25-2) at 9 a.m. on March 3 at Jackson State.
St. Martin took down Class 6A power Harrison Central 65-61 on Friday behind a whopping 46 points and 16 rebounds from White to advance to Jackson for the second time in the last three years.
Gulfport (18-8) will take on Murrah at noon on March 3 at Jackson State in its quarterfinal match. The Lady Admirals thumped Ocean Springs 43-28 on Friday to advance.