PASS CHRISTIAN - Long-time Pass Christian coach Buddy Kennedy announced earlier this season he'll be retiring at season's end.
Well he'll have to wait a bit longer to box up his clipboard.
The Pirates played an inspired second half of their Class 4A second-round matchup against Lawrence County for their coach. After trailing for the first 16 minutes Saturday, Pass Christian traded leads in the final 16. After tying the game with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the Pirates overwhelmed the Cougars late in overtime for a 51-43 victory.
"We have some seniors on this team and the only thing they've been talking about is going to Jackson and Coach Kennedy, making sure his season ends with a win," said Aydarius Young.
Trailing 40-38 and 30 seconds potentially remaining in Kennedy's career, the Pirates struck. Tionne Frost initially disrupted the Cougars' in-bounds pass at mid-court. Montez Green then grabbed it at half court before dishing it off to Young.
The junior guard dribbled around a defender and down in front of Pass Christian's bench before cutting to the basket. Young sliced through two Cougar defenders and jumped around a third before laying the ball up and into the basket with 15 seconds remaining, bringing the players on the Pirates's bench to their feet.
"I just remember him shooting the ball," said Maliq Leaks, who finished with nine points. "I knew he was going to make it, so I was just waiting for it to go in."
Added Young, whose only basket came on the mad dash from half court: "I was just going for the ball and once I got it I was just trying to do whatever I could to score."
The Cougars (21-10) launched one last wayward attempt before the game went to overtime.
Lawrence County's Keyshawn Feazell, who finished with a team-high 11 points, scored on three free throw attempts early in overtime, but Frost converted two free throws of his own and then scored on a layup to put Pass Christian ahead 44-43. Aaron Whavers scored two of his game-high 14 points on free throws and Leaks converted three more down the stretch to put the game away.
"When we were down four with about a minute or so left in regulation it looked pretty tough, but we've been very mentally tough and resilient all year long," Kennedy said. "We played a tough schedule all year and it prepared us for this kind of game."
The Pirates (26-6) spilled onto the court after the final buzzer sounded, hugging one another. Kennedy, in his last home game - win No. 519 at Pass Christian - was much more measured.
His players may not have realized the significance of their late rally in the heat of the moment, but Kennedy did.
"It's sinking in with me now. Time is real small, so it's really precious. It's great we get to make one last trip to Jackson," Kennedy said. "That was a good way to sign off right there."
The Pirates will now face Corinth, which up-ended Raymond 75-71 in overtime, at 4 p.m. Thursday.