Sloppy offense haunts Petal against Meridian

By CAMAL PETRO,

PETAL – If someone had told Petal coach Todd Kimble that his Petal Panthers would hold Meridian to 35 points Tuesday night, he’d assume his team earned Petal’s first-ever win over the Wildcats.

That wasn’t the case, however, as the Panthers fell to Meridian 35-27, and now Petal is 0-20 all-time against Meridian, according to Kimble.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for photos from Matt Bush. 

“When you can’t execute on the offensive end, it doesn’t matter much what you do on defense,” Kimble said.

That was the story of the game. The Panthers played excellent defense against one of the state’s best teams, but they couldn’t find the bottom of the basket enough to ever take the lead.

Kimble credits Meridian for contesting Petal’s shots, but his players weren’t executing the offense well enough to get better looks at the basket. For a team that averages better than 50 percent shooting the ball, the Panthers couldn’t take advantage of the man defense Meridian was playing.

Instead of moving the ball and playing fast on offense, Petal made few passes per possession and took tough shots that didn’t fall.

“As slow as the game was, we still didn’t possess the ball on the offensive end as long as we should have,” Kimble said. “It was like we had to shoot it. Our whole thing was to control the tempo and make (Meridian) play defense. They didn’t want to play defense that long. As far as that goes, we played right in their hand.”

Petal did start with the game’s first points, but Meridian used a 14-0 run to jump ahead 14-2 in the early going of the second quarter. Even though the Panthers weren’t doing what Kimble wanted to do on offense, they still had opportunities to end the Wildcats’ run with shots on the rim.

The Panthers found a little rhythm in the second quarter after Meridian’s long run. They scored nine of the quarter’s final 11 points to slice Meridian’s lead to 16-11 at the break.

“We shot some shots that were contested that we shouldn’t have shot,” Kimble said. “Those are shots, when you have a guy running at you, you do a shot fake and go by them. We didn’t do that. We just didn’t play smart basketball on the offensive end.”

Petal cut Meridian’s lead to one possession five times in the third and fourth quarters, but it couldn’t string together enough baskets to tie or take the lead. The Panthers cut it to 17-15, then 22-20 and finally 27-25 before the Wildcats finished them off late in the fourth.

“We just never could get a rhythm offensively,” Kimble said. “It was a basket here then three trips without scoring, and you can’t get into a rhythm like that. (Meridian) defended well and we didn’t take advantage of them playing us the way they played us.”

Every time Kimble called a timeout, he preached better offensive play to his team. He told his players to make the basketball move more instead of catching passes and looking up. That allowed the Meridian defense to get in position to defend the Panthers effectively.

On a higher note, Kimble thought his team played well on defense to hold the Wildcats to their second-lowest scoring night of the season, and the Panthers didn’t get beat on the offensive glass, which was a point of emphasis entering the contest.

Junior Treylan Smith led the Panthers with eight points and senior Don Avila added seven points.

“I just felt like tonight was our chance to win, and we did almost all of it but you have to play a whole game,” Kimble said. “We played on one end (of the court) and didn’t play on the other.”

There’s no time for rest. The Panthers will host Oak Grove (15-1, 1-0) Friday night in another crucial region game. The Warriors took down George County 66-31 Tuesday night.

“All of them are big right now,” Kimble said. “We have to turn around and play Oak Grove. We have to get past this one because if we don’t, we’re going to get beat by Oak Grove because of this one.”

Petal is now 13-2 on the season and 0-1 in Region 5-6A, while Meridian is 13-2 and 1-0.

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