Third quarter the difference in Meridian's win over Petal; Lady Panthers fall


PETAL – The Petal Panthers entered Friday night’s game with the Meridian Wildcats red hot, but of all the game film Panthers’ coach Todd Kimble has watched of Meridian, he says he’s never seen what he saw Friday night.

The Wildcats continued to prove their one of the best teams in the state, defeating the Panthers 74-60. Petal drops to 12-3 overall and 2-2 in Region 5-6A, while Meridian improves to 24-1 on the season and 5-0 in the region.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for photos of the boys’ game from Matt Bush.

“That’s a good basketball team,” Kimble said. “Not only is that a good basketball team, but that’s a good basketball team that played really well. I’ve never seen them play that well in any film that I’ve watched.”

Petal sophomore Caleb McGill led the team with 19 points, and it was his play in the first quarter that allowed the Panthers to put a good foot forward. He scored eight of his 19 points in the opening quarter, as he matched up with Meridian’s imposing big men.

Kimble said the plan was to establish McGill down low early in hopes of Meridian fouling him or backing off to prevent foul trouble.

“I just feel like I have to do whatever I can for my team,” McGill said. “I feel like if I do my part on the team, and I get that energy going, everybody else will get the energy going. So, I do what I can as a good teammate and hope my teammates will feed off that, which they did in the first half and in the fourth. We just have to get better in the third.”

McGill scored the team’s first six points and the Panthers went back and forth with the Wildcats until Petal took a 14-13 lead at the end of the first. The opening frame saw five ties and two lead changes.

Meridian began to get separation in the second quarter with a quick 6-0 run to retake the lead and extend it to 24-19. Meridian’s Tyron Brewer began to heat up in the quarter, too. He scored four points in the first, but follow it up with 11 of his game-high 23 points in the second quarter.

Meridian took the 32-27 lead into the break.

What put Petal behind the eight-ball was how it played to start the second half. The Wildcats began the third with a quick 10-0 run to push the lead to 44-29, then finished the frame with seven straight points to make it a 55-36 entering the final eight minutes.

“The whole basketball game was the third quarter,” Kimble said. “That was the difference in the game. We had been coming out of the dressing room playing well in the third quarter, but we didn’t tonight. You can’t do that against a good team.”

Petal made it interesting in the fourth quarter, though, thanks to McGill, senior Mykah Brown and sophomore Treylan Smith. McGill and Smith started the fourth with a combined five quick points, then Brown nailed back-to-back 3-pointers a few minutes later to cut the Meridian lead to 63-54.

Meridian would match Petal for the rest of the game to keep the Panthers at bay.

“I feel like if they wouldn’t have went on that run, we could have bounced back, but we have to do it on the defensive end,” McGill said. “I think we were playing better defense right there at the end in the fourth quarter, if we would have played defense like that for the start of the third quarter when we came out of the dressing room, like coach said, basketball is a game of runs. If we stop their run, they don’t win.”

The Panthers have two region games left with George County (9-9, 0-3) before tournament seedings are wrapped up, but McGill is ready to make a statement about February’s Region tournament.

“We look forward to seeing (Meridian) again in the district championship,” he said.

Meridian 57, Petal 50: The Lady Panthers hung tough through the first two quarters, but Meridian pushed ahead in the third quarter to put Petal in a hole it couldn’t overcome.

PHOTOS: Click for photos from the Lady Panthers’ game from Matt Bush.

After a quick 5-2 start from the Lady Panthers, thanks to a 3-pointer from Jada Arrington, Meridian stormed ahead to take an 11-5 lead after the first quarter. The Lady Wildcats closed the frame on a 9-0 run, which extended to an 11-0 run at the beginning of the second.

After the Meridian run, however, Petal scored seven of the game’s next eight points to cut the Lady Wildcats’ lead to 14-12. After that, the quarter featured mostly back and forth action until Meridian took a 26-22 lead into halftime.

Meridian opened up the second half with a 15-4 run to extend its lead to 42-26, and the Lady Wildcats ended the frame with the 44-29 advantage.

The Lady Panthers made it a game late in the fourth, scoring 12 of the game’s next 14 points to cut Meridian’s lead to single digits, 50-44. They’d get as close as 55-49 before the Lady Wildcats hit a layup and a free throw to put the game out of reach with less than a minute to go.

Junior Myla Cox led Petal with 20 points.

The Lady Panthers are 8-11 overall and 1-3 in region play.

Petal is back in action Tuesday with region contests with George County. The Lady Panthers tip at 6 p.m. and the boys will follow at 7:30 p.m.