By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
Pearl River Centrals' return to the South State basketball playoffs was a short one.
Homestanding South Jones jumped out to a quick 9-1 lead, and was never really threatened in handing the Lady Devils a 49-24 loss in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs Monday night.
The defending Class 5A South State champions move to 23-8 on the year, and will move on the the South State Tournament beginning on Friday.
Pearl River Central sees a successful season come to an end at 15-13. It was the first playoff appearance in four years for the Lady Devils, who were just 4-23 a year ago.
Any chances PRC had at pulling off a big upset were dashed by some cold shooting early in the game.
"We just couldn't ever really get anything going," PRC acting head coach Kayla Inabinnette said. "We never could get our intensity level up to where it needed to be, and we just couldn't make any shots. You can't win if you can't score."
The Lady Braves used that solid start to take a quick lead and never trailed. The Lady Devils managed just four points in the first half, trailing 21-4 t intermission.
"We just got ourselves in too big of a hole early in the game," Inabinnette added. "By the time we started making some shots in the second half, it was kind of too late."
With South Jones up 23-4 less than a minute into the third frame, the Lady Devils had one final rally in them. Caroline Lumpkin scored a pair of baskets and made a pair of free throws, while Brandi Lee sank a 10-foot jumper as well as PRC put together an 8-0 run to make it 23-12 mid-way through the period.
But the Lady Braves responded, and outscored PRC 15-2 over the final three minutes of the period to take a 38-14 advantage into the final quarter.
The senior Lumpkin ended her career with a flourish, as she scored nine of her teams 10 points in the final frame hitting a pair of 3-pointers as well as converting an old fashioned three point play. But the Lady Devils never got much closer as time ran out on their season.
Lumpkin finished with 16 points to pace PRC, and recorded a double-double as well grabbing 11 rebounds. The Lady Braves held PRC center Jessica Powers scoreless, but she did haul down eight rebounds and block seven shots. Lee scored six points in the loss.
The Lady Devils managed to make the playoffs despite having their first year head coach, Danielle DeWitt, resign abruptly with one week left in the regular season.
"I'm proud of how they handled it all," Inabinette concluded. "They are teenage girls and they had to handle some things that most teams don't ever have to go through. They overcame a lot just to get here, and they should be proud of that."