PASCAGOULA -- Pascagoula survived a missed 3-point attempt at the buzzer to beat Brookhaven 55-54, advancing to its sixth consecutive Class 5A state basketball tournament.
Brookhaven, though, almost ended Pascagoula's streak of Jackson trips at five. With six seconds left to go in the game, and Pascagoula holding a one-point lead, Noel Jones missed a pair of free throws that would have given the homestanding Panthers a three-point lead.
With Pascagoula back playing defense, Brookhaven (22-5) quickly brought the ball up court and got the ball into Lazorian McNulty's hands. The senior guard fired up a three, only to see it bounce off the rim. Pascagoula's Illyan Scott grabbed his 12th rebound to secure the Panther's win.
"That's a tough shot under any situation," Pascagoula Ronald Norman said. "They got a good look. But, getting the stop was the important thing, and we got the stop."
Never miss a local story.
While Jones missed two free throws late, his play throughout the game put Pascagoula in a place where they could win. The junior point guard hit seven-of-10 3-point attempts, many at crucial times to stop Brookhaven runs, dished out four assists, and pulled down five rebounds.
"It was a team win," Norman said. "But, (Jones) refused to lose. I told him before the game we needed him to play like a senior. He really played like a veteran tonight and came through."
Jones hit a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in the third quarter to send the two teams into the fourth quarter tied at 36 each.
Brookhaven made their run first behind senior Garrick Smith, who scored 11 of his team-high 13 points in the final quarter. Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight of his team's first 10 final quarter points to spark a 10-3 run that gave the visiting Panthers a 46-39 lead with just under six minutes to go.
"(Smith) has been doing that all season," said Brookhaven coach Jimmie Butler. "Anytime we've needed a big shot, it's been either Smith or McNulty to come through."
Jones, though, responded for Pascagoula with his sixth trey of the night to spark a 14-2 run that put the homestanding Panthers up for good. During the run, he had a long trey, a steal, and two free throws with less than three minutes left to play to put Pascagoula up for good, 51-48 with 2:25 left.
Scott added a dunk with 1:21 dunk to push Pascagoula's run to five, 53-48.
While Pascagoula went cold from the free throw line late, hitting only two-of-five free throws in the final minute of play, Brookhaven's Damarius Brooks came up with a steal and lay-up and McNulty connected on a 3-pointer to pull the visiting Panthers to within one at 55-54 with 20 seconds left to play.
"It was a tough, exciting game," Butler said. "Pascagoula did a great job. We made too many mistakes at the wrong time. We had our opportunities shooting the ball, but we missed the shots. Pascagoula made the shots when they needed to."
"Hats off to Brookhaven," Norman said. "They really, really played hard tonight."
Jones led all scorers with 25 points. Scott added 13 points for a double-double and blocked five shots, including three in a row during the third quarter. Jacques Belford was strong underneath the boards for the homestanding Panthers with seven points and eight rebounds.
McNulty and Danarius Gray scored 11 points each for Brookhaven. Damarius Brooks just missed double figures, scoring nine points for the visiting Panthers.
"I'm really, really excited to go back to Jackson," Norman said. "Over the last few years, we've met the Calloways and Vicksburgs. The goal is to win next week."