Petal fought hard but costly turn-overs and an aggressive full court defense by Meridian led the Wildcats to a 58-53 win in the season’s first division matchup.
Tuesday night marked an incredible night for two of the state’s top five high school basketball programs as No. 4 Meridian traveled to No. 5 Petal. Both schools have incredible talent with multiple next level players on the court.
Coming into the game, both schools had three total losses with Meridian (14-2) losing to Harrison Central and Hattiesburg and Petal (11-1) losing a close one to Hattiesburg.
From the opening seconds the buzz was on high as both schools came out for warmups. Each team started out slow and went scoreless until Petal’s Treylan Smith hit a pair of free throws at the 4:07 mark of the first quarter.
The two schools sparred back and forth with five lead changes ending the first quarter with a 10-9 Meridian advantage.
Petal struck first again as Caleb Mcgill, a Dandy Dozen star, got an easy bucket around the rim to take the lead 11-10. A steal and monster dunk by Mcgill highlighted the back-and-forth play. After nine lead changes and a Tyler Dailey three pointer, the Panthers went into half with the early and largest lead of the game, 30-26.
Treylan Smith lead all scorers at half with 11.
In the second half, Petal struck first and showed a spark, extending their lead to 34-29 in the third quarter.
Meridian put on full-court pressure and created back-to-back turnovers at the 3:50 mark and went on a 5-0 run to tie the ballgame.
At the end of three, the score was tied at 41
The slugfest continued into the fourth quarter as both teams traded buckets. Meridian took the game over around the 2:27 mark and never looked back. Costly turnovers and key mistakes were just too much for Petal as they fell by five to a tough Meridian team.
“My message to these kids is don’t let this game beat you,” head coach Todd Kimble said. “We are making mistakes that we have made over the last 10 or 12 games. If we don’t correct those then we are going to see the same thing happen again. These are mental mistakes and can be easily corrected. Meridian is a really good team. Although we would like to have come out with the win, this loss can be a good thing with the things we will learn about ourselves moving forward.”
Kyler Yarbrough led the Wildcats with 18 points and knocked out key free throws to seal the victory for Meridian.
Treylan Smith led the Panthers with 14 points, 11 of those coming in the first half of play.
The two powerhouse schools will meet up again as Petal travels to Meridian Jan. 24.