HURLEY - Count East Central coach Wes Brewer among the believers in Pass Christian basketball.
Pass Christian opened the third quarter with a 26-1 run over the first six minutes of the second half en-route to a 82-36 victory on Friday night. Five Pass Christian players scored in double figures for the Pirates (14-5, 5-1 Region 8-4A).
"They might well be the Class 4A state champions this year," Brewer said. "They can beat any team in the state."
Despite a 32-20 halftime lead, Pass Christian coach Buddy Kennedy went into the halftime locker room displeased with his team's play.
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"I wasn't really happy with our play in the first half," Kennedy said. "I expressed my displeasure at the half and asked my team if they could play with a little more effort in the second half."
Maliq Leaks, held to just five points in the first half, led the surge with 12 points in the third quarter. Aaron Whavers added eight points and Jaylen Peters six points as Pass Christian attacked East Central (10-9, 1-2) across the length of the court.
Pass Christian forced 36 East Central turnovers in the game, most coming in the third quarter.
"Pass played really, really well defensively and we didn't in the third quarter," Brewer said. "We made some costly turnovers. They are really, really good. They played like a championship team tonight."
Leaks and Whavers scored 17 points each to pace Pass Christian. Ray Obillo scored 15 points coming off the bench. Peters, 12 points, and Jermaine Dedeaux, 10 points, rounded out the quintet of Pirate double-figure scorers.
Reed Gable led East Central with 11 points.
Pass Christian girls 59, East Central 47: The Pirates led wire-to-wire, hitting the boards late to pull away from East Central with a 12-5 run over the last 2:46 in the game. With two minutes left in the third quarter, Pirates Maliyah Bullard got the steal and basket to push Pass Christian's lead up to 42-27.
Behind Ressie Doss, who hit a pair of treys, and Madison Pearson, who scored four points in the Hornets' comeback, East Central (11-8, 1-2) cut steadily into the Pass Christian lead. With 2:46, Sania Wells hit the front end of a two-shot foul to cut the Pirates lead to 47-42.
"We never gave up," Brewer said. "We knew if Pass Christian shot the ball well, it would be a real dogfight. We came up short and they outplayed us."
Pass Christian didn't panic as East Central made their run over the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We kept our cool down the stretch," Pass Christian coach Greta Ainsworth said. "We had several starters on the bench with foul trouble and we handled their comeback pretty well. We got aggressive when we needed to."
Despite the Lady Pirates (8-13, 2-2) hitting just 4-of-10 free throws down the stretch, that would be as close as East Central got. Pass Christian pulled away on the strength of three offensive rebounds, a key defensive rebound, and two Hornets' turnovers.
The top four Pass Christian scorers accounted for all but five of the Pirates' points. Natanya Wilkerson topped the Pirates scoring table with 16 points. Tori Williams added 14 points and Cayla Obillo scored 13 points. Bullard rounded out the scoring quartet with 10 points.
Doss led all scorers with 17 points for East Central. Wells finished with 15 points,Pearson had 10 points.