Dees paces Picayune past WJHS

Published 7:35 pm Thursday, February 22, 2007

Picayune’s Chris Dees was huge on Fat Tuesday.

The Maroon Tide junior forward was tossing the ball in the basket like a masked reveler throwing beads off a float on Mardi Gras, as he tallied a career high 26 points and Picayune cruised to a 58-36 win over visiting West Jones in opening round play of the Class 4A South State playoffs.

With the win, the Maroon Tide move to 27-5 overall but more importantly qualify for the South State Tournament which begins Thursday. Picayune will meet McComb Thursday at 5:30 at Pass Christian.

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It was the third time this season that Picayune had beaten West Jones, which finishes the season at 12-20.

The 6-foot-4 Dees took advantage of a smaller Mustang line-up Tuesday night, pouring in 16 of his total in the first half alone as the Maroon Tide took a 30-25 advantage into intermission after trailing 15-14 after the first quarter.

“I knew we would have a height advantage, so I knew the opportunity was going to be there for me to get the ball inside and I had to take advantage of it,” Dees, who also added eight rebounds, said. “We wanted to pound it inside, that was our plan. We wanted to make them stop us if they could.”

And the Mustangs couldn’t. Even though West Jones, especially standout guard Rennel Collins, were hot from the outside in the first half, West Jones had no match inside for Dees.

“We tried to get the ball inside to him as much as possible,” Picayune first year head coach Daniel Kennedy said. “Going into the game, we felt like we had an area there that we could take advantage of.”

Despite Picayune’s inside prowess, though, Collins kept the Mustangs close early with his long range shooting. He had 18 points in the first half, including four 3-pointer’s, but would finish with just three points in the second half.

“We knew what he could do, we knew he was good,” Kennedy said. “But we played better defense, especially in the second half. We moved a bigger guy (Brandon Fortenberry) on him and made him change his shot a little.”

And that move paid off, as the Maroon Tide took control of the game in the third frame. Picayune outscored WJHS 16-2 in the quarter, including a 13-0 run to finish the frame, and turned that 30-25 halftime lead into a commanding 46-27 advantage entering the final period.

In fact, in the second and third quarters, Picayune outscored the Mustangs 32-12, and therein was the key to the game.

“We played as well at that point in the third quarter as we have all year,” Kennedy said. “We know that this time of the year, defense and free throws will tell the story. I was proud of the way we played defense tonight.”

Fortenberry played Mr. Outside to Dees’ Mr. inside, chipping in 11 points in the win, including a big 3-pointer during the decisive third quarter run.

Reshun Smith and Jessie Ulmer also came of the bench to provide some key support for Picayune, scoring six points apiece.

Smith, in fact, nailed two big 3-pointer’s in the second quarter as Picayune began to take the lead.

Collins, paced West Jones with 21 points, marking the third time he had gone for 20 or more points against Picayune this season.