Petal clinches playoff spot in region tournament winBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – When Petal beat Oak Grove by 37 points last month to sweep the two-game season series, Panthers’ coach Todd Kimble said it was going to be tough to beat a team three times.
Kimble knew his team would most likely see the Warriors in the region tournament, and that’s exactly what happened. Oak Grove’s defense kept it in the game, but the Panthers were just too much, taking down their rival 50-38 on the opening night of the Region 5-6A Tournament Monday.
“I told my guys, ‘I guarantee they’re going to play one of the best games they’ve played all year. You’re going to have to beat them, because they’re not going to beat themselves,’” Kimble recalled.
With the win, the Panthers clinched a home playoff game when the 6A playoffs start next week, and they advanced to play Meridian Friday. Oak Grove will play George County in the third-place game, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday at Oak Grove. Tip of the Region Championship is set for 8:30 p.m.
“I think it’s been awhile since Petal has played a home playoff game, so that’s good,” Kimble, who led Purvis to the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades last season, said. “We’re checking things off.”
Petal started the game well, jumping out to an early 9-3 lead thanks to five quick points from senior Mykah Brown and four from sophomore Treylan Smith. The Panthers closed the opening frame by scoring seven of the game’s next 10 points to take a 16-6 lead into the second.
Kimble thought his team played really well in the first quarter, but in the second quarter, however, the Oak Grove defense stepped up to limit the Panthers to only eight points. But, Oak Grove’s offense couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, as it only scored five points.
Petal went into halftime with a 24-11 lead.
“Defensively, they took us out of a lot of stuff that we do,” Kimble said. “We got sloppy and I probably didn’t sub as much as I should have. Sometimes you have to win one ugly.”
Oak Grove continued to play good defense in the second half, holding Petal to just 35 points through three quarters. Oak Grove coach LaRon Brumfield was happy with his team’s defense, but “crazy shots” on offense was the ultimate detriment.
Petal took the 35-22 lead into the final quarter despite poor shooting from the Warriors.
“Our team defense was really good and I thought we were right there when we needed to be, but we just couldn’t capitalize,” he said. “We made too many mistakes on both ends of the court. We gave up offensive rebounds, we turned the ball over and we didn’t take the shots we needed to take. We took some crazy shots during that stretch.”
In the fourth quarter, Oak Grove cut Petal’s lead to 42-32 after junior Tate Ryder nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, but Petal’s Mykah Brown iced the game with six straight free throws to finish with a game-high 20 points.
The Panthers (17-4) lost both meetings with Meridian this season. They fell to the Wildcats by seven points at Meridian, then lost by 14 at home two weeks later. Meridian is 28-1 overall this season with its only loss coming to Callaway in November.
“They are without a doubt the most talented team in the state,” Kimble said. “They’re athletic and they just do so many good things. We’re probably going to change a few things that we’ve been doing against them the last two times we’ve played them, but a team like that, you can’t make mistakes.”
Kimble said his team is confident heading to the matchup, but he admitted his team will have to clean some things up after Monday’s win over Oak Grove.
“We’re going to give it a shot,” he said. “We’re there, so at least we have a chance.”
Oak Grove (14-13) swept George County this season with two double-digit wins. It beat the Rebels by 28 at home, then followed it up with an 11-point win at George County.
“This time of the year, you either got it or you ain’t,” Brumfield said. “You either going to be self-motivated and come out and play hard or you’re not. If you can’t get motivated for that game, there’s nothing we can do about that.”