Jackson County is well represented this year in the 2016 Sun Herald's All-South Mississippi boys basketball individual honors.
Third-year Pascagoula coach Ronald Norman is the Sun Herald Boys Basketball Coach of the Year and St. Martin senior guard Stacee St. Julian is the Sun Herald Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Norman has continued to build on a Pascagoula tradition that he inherited, helping the Panthers reach Jackson for the sixth consecutive season.
The Panthers also took a major step forward in earning the respect of the rest of the Coast, finishing the season as No. 1 in the Sun Herald Top 10. Pascagoula won games over the Coast's top programs -- Biloxi, Gulfport, Harrison Central, St. Martin and West Harrison.
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"We compare ourselves to Biloxi, Gulfport and Pass Christian for one reason -- they've got rings," Norman said. "That's what we measure our program by. We want to be like those programs and the only way to be like those programs is to eventually beat those programs and gain confidence."
Pascagoula finished 24-5 in 2016, falling in the Class 5A state quarterfinals in Jackson in a 73-61 loss to Center Hill. The Panthers cruised to a Region 8-5A championship with a 6-0 record against region competition.
Pascagoula had a pair of talented seniors in the post in Jacques Belford and Illyan Scott while relying on a bevy of solid guards to lead the program back to Jackson.
"This was a group of overcomers," Norman said. "Nobody said when these kids were sophomores that they'd be the next best player out of 'Goula. The guys bought in, sold out and made themselves into basketball players. They made themselves into a really good team."
St. Julian's last ride
St. Julian will continue his basketball career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for the 2016-17 season following a standout career at St. Martin. He turned down Division II offers at Delta State and Valdosta State with hopes of improving his stock for Division I programs at the Perkinston community college.
During St. Julian's four years at St. Martin, the Yellow Jackets won three district championships.
With Charlie Pavlus building a winner at St. Martin, St. Julian leaves behind a St. Martin program now respected as one of the best on the Coast.
"I take a lot of pride in that," St. Julian said.
St. Julian and Rodrick Sikes combined to lead St. Martin to the 2015 Class 6A quarterfinals for the program's first trip to Jackson.
The Yellow Jackets fell short of a return trip to Jackson in 2015, but St. Julian continued to be a standout on the court. The team finished with a record of 21-10, falling at Meridian in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
St. Julian, who is St. Martin's all-time leading scorer, averaged 22.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals as a senior.
"When you leave, you think about the things you could have done," St. Julian said. "There are things I wish I could change. Then again, everything happens for a reason. God has a plan."