Two old college roommates and teammates met in front of the scorer’s table Tuesday night at the conclusion of the Class 6A state quarterfinal at Biloxi.
Meridian coach Ron Norman and Biloxi coach Seber Windham embraced at the end of what was one of the most intense contests of both of their decorated coaching careers.
The final score — Meridian 55, Biloxi 51.
It was a brutal end to the season for Biloxi, which was considered by many to be the No. 1 in the state and entered the game with a record of 30-1.
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“I’ve been doing this 21 years and this is probably the toughest loss I’ve ever had,” Windham said. “I’ve got 15 guys in there crying. We had high expectations. At the end of the day, I thought Meridian played really, really well.”
Even in a difficult moment, Windham took the time to relay some kind words to Norman, who was his college roommate and teammate on the William Carey basketball team.
“I just told him I’m proud of him,” Windham said. “We beat them the first game of the year so he had to swallow that pill for the whole year. I knew he’d have his team focused and ready. You never want to lose, but he’s a great coach, great guy. He has a great program and I want him to be successful. I told him I hope he goes and wins it all.”
Norman kept his cool while he spoke briefly with Windham on the court, but he was exultant as he celebrated the victory with his players.
“With the way the format came out, we knew somebody wasn’t going to make it,” Norman said of his discussion with Windham. “We’ve had some battles over there years and I can’t be more proud of our kids.”
Meridian (25-4) will play the winner of Thursday’s Murrah-Tupelo game at 7 p.m. on March 6 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson for a spot in the Class 6A state title contest.
Tuesday night’s game was a back-and-forth affair that was decided in the final minute.
A basket by Jariyon Wilkens gave Biloxi a 51-48 lead with 1:03 remaining, but Meridian managed to score the final seven points of the game.
The decisive moment came when a Biloxi pass bounced mid-air off the foot of a Meridian player and into the hands of Kyler Yarbrough, who made a quick move to the basket, hit a layup and was fouled in the process. He hit the free throw and gave Meridian a 54-51 lead with 12.5 seconds remaining.
Not much went right for Biloxi in the final moments. There was a backcourt violation, a mad scramble for the ball that went Meridian’s way and a traveling call.
“Everything that you could have planned to go wrong, went wrong,” Windham said. “With a senior-laden group, you’d think we’d get over that hump, but it just didn’t happen.
“Coach Norman had a great game plan for us. They zoned us. Again, hats off to them.”
Jarvis Campbell led Meridian with 14 points and Yarbrough scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. Treamond Pittman also contributed 12 points.
Meridian spoiled a big game from Biloxi senior guard Dontavius Proby, who led all scorers with 20 points. Senior Jariyon Wilkens had 14 points, making 10 of 11 free throws.
Caleb McCarty had a couple of high-flying dunks and added 10 points for the Indians (30-2).
Hattiesburg 68, Long Beach 61: The Bearcats (24-7) tied the game at 55-55 in the fourth after trailing by 17 in the first half, but the Tigers pulled away for the win in Long Beach. Hattiesburg’s Cameron Brown led all scorers with 33 points. Hattiesburg (24-8) will play the winner of Center Hill-Cleveland Central at 7 p.m. on March 5 in Jackson.
North Forrest 61, St. Patrick 48: The North Forrest basketball team is headed to Jackson for the first time since 2000 after winning Tuesday night in Eatonville. St. Patrick’s season ends at 23-7.
Forest Hill 65, Picayune 53: Picayune’s season comes to a close with a record of 20-12.