PASCAGOULA-- Pascagoula used a stifling fourth-quarter defense to beat Quitman 61-54 at the Chevron Classic on Saturday.
Quitman (8-9) led 34-25 at halftime, behind 13 first half points from Thurston McCarty. Josh Beard helped kick the visiting Panthers hot start off with a nine point first quarter. Sophomore Sayveon Bumpers helped McCarty maintain the Quitman advantage with seven second quarter points.
Pascagoula coach Ronald Norman credited Quitman's hot start to coach Chris Coleman's knowledge of Norman's basketball philosophies. Coleman was Norman's assistant coach when the two were at Wayne County.
"If anybody knows me inside and out, it's him," Norman said. "He knows what we are going to do before we do it."
However, in the second half, Jacques Belford scored eight as Pascagoula (13-4) cut the Quitman lead to 46-42 after three quarters.
Pascagoula took the lead for good in the early minutes of the fourth quarter on a 9-1 run using three 3-point plays. Noel Jones and Darius Johnson drained shots deep behind the arc as Pascagoula took its first lead since early in the first quarter 48-47 at the 6:10 mark.
Johnson followed his trey with a drive to the basket and a foul for the old-fashioned 3-point play, giving Pascagoula a 51-47 lead with 5:19 left to play.
"That run felt like it was 17-0," Coleman said. "At that time we couldn't get the ball past half court and when we broke the pressure it was in the hands of players who were not ready to score."
Pascagoula's defense forced seven turnovers in the final quarter and held Quitman to one of six shooting and six-of-11 free throws.
''We picked it up on defense," Norman said. "The team all bought in and gave me max effort in the second half."
Johnson led the Panthers with 16 points, including eight points in the final quarter. Belford and Illyan Scott each scored 10 points.
McCarty led all scorers with 19 points for Quitman. Bumpers finished with 12 points. Beard had 11 points.
Quitman girls 60, Pascagoula 52: Pascagoula made only one of nine shots from the field in the final three-and-a-half minutes of play. While the homestanding Panthers were unable to find the bottom of the net, behind Shonte Hailes and Sendreca Howard, Quitman got hot down the stretch.
Hailes hit a pair of baskets to give Quitman (13-5) a 53-49 lead with 2:35 left to play. Sendreca Howard followed with four free throws, pushing Quitman's lead out to 57-49 and sealing the win with 1:25 left .
"We finally made some free throws," said Quitman coach Gina Skelton. "Defense can make a struggling offense happy. You can always play defense even if your offense is struggling."
Hailes led Quitman with 17 points, including nine in the fourth. Chequira Bonner added 15 points for the Lady Panthers. Alexis McBeath led Pascagoula with 18 points, Jailin Cherry added 16.
"You can't win three-quarters of the game and come out with a win," said Pascagoula coach Carolyn Whitehead. "They stopped us (offensively) and hit their free throws. They wanted it more than we did. Sometimes a loss is a good thing.It helps to regain your focus and shows anyone can be beaten."