Hattiesburg's Big 3 lifts Tigers over Oak Grove

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – Hattiesburg junior Cameron Brown averaged 21 points per game entering Tuesday night’s tilt with Oak Grove, and it looked like he was in for a rough game after two quarters of play.

Brown has scored as much as 39 points in a game this season and as few as 10. On Tuesday at Oak Grove, he had just three points at halftime.

“I told him if he doesn’t carry us we aren’t going to win,” Hattiesburg coach Ernie Watson said of his conversation with Brown at halftime. “It’s as simple as that, then I walked out.”

While he didn’t necessarily carry the team, because Hattiesburg had two other players scored at least 16 points, Brown’s team-high 22 points helped the Tigers overcome a second-half deficit to defeat rival Oak Grove 65-59.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for photos from the boy's game. 

“I was in a slump and had to find a way to score,” Brown said. “The game had to come to me.”

Oak Grove controlled most of the first half while Brown struggled to make shots fall, but Hattiesburg’s Nick Walker kept up the pace. The Warriors used a 6-0 run late in the first quarter to take their first lead of the game, 14-13.

Oak Grove senior Brandon Tilley made the last shot of the first quarter, then he strung together four 3-point shots in the second quarter and a pair of free throws to give the Warriors a 30-25 lead at halftime. Tilley had 16 points in the first half and finished with 18 points in the game to lead the Warriors.

“We went into halftime and I told them what we weren’t doing,” Watson said. “We had to stop playing selfish ball and start playing team ball. That’s what we did in the second half.”

Not only did Watson get after his team as a whole at halftime, but he also made sure to let Brown know what he thought of his game so far.

“He basically gets after my behind in every game,” Brown said. “He makes me play harder when I’m not playing hard. He encourages me to fight through it.”

It worked because Brown scored 13 points in the third quarter then six more in the final frame to help Hattiesburg come back and win. He even brought down the house with a monster slam-dunk while being fouled in the third quarter. He made the and-1 free throw, too.

“I wasn’t going to dunk it at first,” Brown said. “I was going to lob it to my big man, but he stopped running so I just went in and dunked it.”

That tied the game at 36 midway through the third quarter, but Oak Grove pushed ahead with a 10-0 run, thanks to 3-pointers by sophomore Jay Barnes and junior Blake Roberts. Brown scored seven straight points to close out the third, though, and that kept Hattiesburg within striking distance, as Oak Grove led 46-43.

In the fourth quarter, the three-headed scoring monster for Hattiesburg started to come alive. Brown and Walker had already made an impact in the game, but junior Chris Lewis started to find his rhythm. He finished with 17 points while Walker added 16.

There’s a correlation between Brown, Walker and Lewis and the numbers they wear on their jerseys. Lewis wears No. 1, Walker is No. 2 and Brown dons No. 3.

“That’s what we want,” Watson said of his top three scorers. “One, two and three. That’s why they wear those numbers. If we don’t score with those three, it’s difficult for us to play.”

Lewis hit a runner then six free throws down the stretch, as Hattiesburg outscored Oak Grove 22-13 in the fourth to leave with the win.

The Tigers improved to 7-3 overall while Oak Grove suffered its first loss of the season to drop to 8-1.

Lady Tigers 58, Oak Grove 32

The Hattiesburg Lady Tigers got the night started with a 58-32 dominating win over the Lady Warriors. Hattiesburg led from start to the finish in the contest, and built up a lead as big as 19 points in the first half.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for photos from the girl's game.

Senior Kenedi Walker and junior Melyia Grayson led the Lady Tigers with 18 points each, and junior Chelsea Ulmer added eight to help Hattiesburg cruise to victory.

Grayson started the game with 12 of her 18 points in the first quarter to build a 15-5 lead, then Walker scored six points in the second quarter to push the advantage to 31-14 at the break. Grayson and Walker combined for the team’s first 11 points of the second half, then Ulmer chipped in with five points the rest of the way to pace the offense.

The Lady Tigers are now 6-2 on the season while the Lady Warriors dropped to 1-7.

Oak Grove is back in action against Tylertown Friday, with the girl’s game starting at 6 p.m. Hattiesburg returns home to play Pascagoula Friday at the same time.