Panthers, Lady Tigers earn wins against Leaf River foes

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – The Hattiesburg Tigers made a few small runs throughout Tuesday’s game against their Leaf River rival Petal, but the Panthers were there to close the door every time to knock off the Tigers 50-40.

“A win on the road against a good Hattiesburg team in a game that was this physical, I’ll take it every night,” Petal coach Todd Kimble said.

***Click for a PHOTO GALLERY from the boys’ game***

***Click for a PHOTO GALLERY from the girls’ contest***

Led by senior Mykah Brown’s 15 points, the Panthers led from start to finish. Although Brown had a slow start, his nine second-half points helped keep Hattiesburg at bay.

“He made some bad decisions in the first half, but I thought in the second half he was as solid as he could be,” Kimble said. “I thought our guys played hard, and that’s all I ever ask for.”

Both teams showed signs of a long layoff, last playing on Nov. 16, but it was Petal that quickly shook off the rust early in the first quarter. A fast 8-2 start by Petal turned into a 16-6 lead before the Tigers cut it to 16-10 by the end of the opening frame.

“I thought the first five minutes, I said, ‘Man, we look really good,’” Kimble said. “I thought we got a little tired in the second half. The only way to get into basketball shape is to play some games. Hopefully, we got that back tonight.”

The rest of the game mirrored the first quarter. Petal would push the lead and Hattiesburg would battle back. When it looked like the Tigers would get within striking distance, Petal answered.

“We couldn’t just get over the hump,” Hattiesburg coach Ernie Watson said. “They did everything right to maintain the lead, but we could not suck it up and handle the little pressure they were putting on us.”

In the second quarter, Petal stretched the lead to 23-11 before the Tigers cut it to 24-18 by halftime. Hattiesburg started the third quarter with two quick baskets to get within four points, but Petal scored seven of game’s next nine points to jump back up 33-24. The third quarter ended with Petal leading 37-30.

In the fourth quarter, Hattiesburg sliced the Petal lead to 42-38, but a 7-0 run by the Panthers ended any hope.

Petal’s Caleb McGill added 12 points and Don Avilla and Matt Butler added eight points each. Hattiesburg had eight players register points in the contest, but none would break into double figures.

“Just missing that guy to step up,” Watson said. “We couldn’t get a guy going.”

Hattiesburg girls 67, Petal 34: The Lady Panthers hit a quick 3-point to begin the game, but they didn’t hit another field goal for the next 14 minutes of game time to fall in a hole quickly. Petal’s Kovi Howze made the game’s first points, but Hattiesburg answered with a 14-0 run to close out the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Petal’s Taityana Pittman made a couple of free throws to start the frame, but Hattiesburg put together another long run to extend the lead to 27-5 in a hurry. Lady Tiger Kenedi Walker got a friendly roll on a 3-pointer to begin the run, then Chelsea Ulmer scored a couple of quick layups in fast break to push the lead even more.

Petal’s field goal drought ended with a minute left in the half, but the Lady Tigers had already built a 35-12 lead at that point. The teams went into the break with Hattiesburg leading 39-12.

The Lady Tigers extended their lead to 53-18 by the end of the third quarter, then the Lady Panthers finished strong with a 16-point fourth quarter.

Hattiesburg senior Terralyn Ulmer and sophomore Chelsea Ulmer led the Lady Tigers with 16 points each, and junior Kenedi Walker added 13. Taityana Pittman’s 10 points led Petal’s scoring.

Next on the docket for Petal is a road game to Wayne County Thursday at 6 pm. and 7:30 p.m. The two schools played earlier this month, as Petal swept the night with two wins.

Hattiesburg will host North Forrest Friday at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.