PCS begins conference play with sweep of Parklane

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – PCS basketball plays 10 conference games every season, and in the words of boys’ coach Josh Dorman, the Bobcats will play in 10 “slobber knockers,” so the importance of starting with a win Tuesday night was crucial.

Both the Lady Bobcats and the Bobcats cruised to victory Tuesday night inside Rees Gymnasium, taking down Parklane Academy to start conference play on the right foot. The girls began the night with a 40-27 win over the Lady Pioneers, then the boys ended it with a 52-39 victory.

“For us to get off to this kind of start with (Jackson) Prep coming Thursday was so important,” Dorman said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. They executed to a T and did a great job.”

The nightcap began with the teams going back and forth for much of the first half. In fact, PCS and Parklane traded the lead nine times and the game was tied five times in the first half, as PCS went into the break with a 25-20 lead.

The two traded baskets in the early going, as Parklane led 13-11 after the first quarter. With the game nodded at 20-all late in the second quarter, a couple of free throws by senior Alex Essary and a buzz-beater just inside half court by senior Josh Gonsalves gave PCS the 25-20 advantage.

The Bobcats would never look back after that. They would outscore the Pioneers 27-19 in the second half to blow the game open, but really, PCS held Parklane to 13 second-half points. A couple of 3s with less than a minute to go made the game closer than it appeared.

“I think defensively, we were playing at an extremely high level,” Dorman said. “Our kids executed what we wanted to do defensively. Where it finished for us was what we did in transition and playing in space really well against their zone. We did just enough against a really good basketball team.”

Senior Braxton Henley led the Bobcats with 15 points, while senior Oto Duran and Essary added nine points each.

“(Henley’s) energy level is better than it’s ever been,” Dorman said. “He gives us length, he’s shooting the ball better, but he’s been active. That’s so key for him.”

In the girls’ game, the Lady ‘Cats had this game circled for a while. Parklane was the team that put them out of the playoffs last season, and Matthew Lofton’s squad wanted to play well against the Lady Pioneers this time around.

PCS got started early with a pair of 3-pointers from junior Jillian Rhian. After Parklane scored on its first possession, Rhian nailed a 3 to get PCS on the board. The Lady Pioneers added a bucket to regain the 4-3 lead, but that was the last advantage the visitors would have for the rest of the game.

Rhian’s second 3 put PCS 6-4, and it never relinquished the lead. She finished with 13 points, which was second on the team.

“She’s such a leader,” Lofton said. “In devotion, she talked about not worrying about the outcome and the process, and Jillian is one of those kids who’s just a natural leader. She loves the team, she loves these girls and she can really shoot the basketball.”

Entering the second quarter with a 12-4 lead, the Lady Bobcats again held Parklane to just four points in a frame, as the two went into the break with PCS up 18-8. PCS had little scoring in the second, but it did get a big 3-point shot from senior Kailee Swindle when Parklane had the score cut to 13-8.

Parklane Academy started to inch closer to PCS in the third quarter, holding the Lady ‘Cats to 6 points before Swindle nailed a 3 at the buzzer to push the lead back out to nine points.

Parklane had it cut to 22-18 at one point in the third, but PCS finished with a 5-0 run to end the frame and take a 27-18 lead entering the final eight minutes. The run extended into the fourth quarter, too, ending at 14 straight points. Prior to the start of the run, Lofton called a timeout to get his players to regroup.

As it turns out, the timeout worked.

“The reason I called timeout was to remind them of what we did in the first half to kind of get some separation,” Lofton said. “Parklane is one of those teams that plays so hard, so they’re not going to go away. From that point on, we had kids make huge shots.”

By the time the 14-0 run was over in the fourth, the Lady Bobcats had built a 36-18 lead.

Swindle led the PCS with 14 points from the floor, while Gabby Gallup added 11 to put three Lady ‘Cats in double figures.

“People can’t key in on one person with us,” Lofton said.

PCS’ next contest is Thursday when Jackson Prep comes to town for another conference game. The varsity girls tip at 6:30 p.m. and the boys’ game will follow at 8 p.m.