By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
Wayne County News
For the first time in 17 years, the Poplarville boys basketball team hosted a state playoff game Tuesday night.
Visiting Quitman wasn't impressed with the rare feat, however.
The Panthers jumped out to a 15-1 lead and never looked back, hammering the Hornets 79-45 in the opening round of the Class 4A South State playoffs.
Quitman, now 21-7, moves on to the South State Tournament in Columbia beginning Thursday night, while Poplarville wraps up the season at 13-14. It was the first home playoff game for the Hornets since 1996.
"We kind of came out with that deer-in-the-headlights kinda look," first year Hornet head coach Chareck Cable said. "Our kids have never been here before, and we were facing an athletic and physical team. We just didn't handle it very well."
The Hornets missed their first eight shots from the field and turned the ball over six times as Quitman raced out to the commanding early lead. Poplarville was just 2-of-12 from the field in the first quarter, and trailed 19-6 entering the second stanza.
Trailing 28-6 two minutes into the period, the Hornets went on a 9-0 run that included a 3-point play by Rojae Raine and a pair of baskets by Anthony Martin to cut the deficit to 28-15 with three minutes to play before intermission.
But Quitman responded, and went into halftime up 35-19. Poplarville never got closer than 15 points in the second half.
"They play a real physical game, and we just never adjusted to it," Cable added. "And we couldn't make any shots early, and they got a big lead that we never could recover from."
Raine paced Poplarville with 15 points, while Martin chipped in eight points. Hornet center Emetric Fells had six blocked shots and six rebounds in the losing effort.
Darius Hicks scored 22 to pace the Panthers, while DaQuan Stanley chipped in 21 points.
It was the first postseason appearance for the Hornets in four years. Poplarville has no seniors on its roster.
"We are young, and I hope we can learn from it," Cable concluded. "They see now what type of effort it takes to compete in the district tournament and in the playoffs. They realize we have to work hard and play with intensity on every possession."