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Lanier ends Maroon Tide’s title run

The third time wasn’t the charm for Picayune against Jackson Lanier.

The Bulldogs knocked off the Maroon Tide for the third straight time in the past decade in the overall Class 4A Tournament, taking a 63-38 win Saturday night in the state semifinals at the Mississippi Coliseum.

Lanier, which beat Picayune in the 2002 state championship game, moves to 36-3 and will play the winner of the New Hope-Oxford game for the state title Friday afternoon. It marks the ninth straight season Lanier will play in the state finals.

Picayune, under the direction of first year head coach Daniel Kennedy, ends the season 30-6.

Lanier used a 16-3 run, which included a 12-0 spurt, over the last part of the second period and opening minutes of the third frame to break open a close game and take control of the contest.

R.L. Horton, the Bulldogs’ Dandy Dozen guard, tallied a game high 21 points to lead the way for Lanier, and added seven assists.

“The difference in the game was that period at the end of the second quarter and then to begin the third quarter,” Kennedy said. “That’s when they got the momentum and we never recovered. We were there at 17-14 and we weren’t really playing that well. But they hurt us all night on the boards, especially offensively.

Picayune got off to a rough start in the opening quarter, mostly due to the Tide getting whistled for eight fouls in the first frame as opposed to just three for Lanier, as well as the fact that the Tide missed several easy shots inside.

Horton’s two free throws with 35 seconds left in the quarter put Lanier up 16-10.

The Tide had Lanier involved in a slow tempo game as the second quarter unfolded, and four straight free throws by Wayne Mickel made the count 17-14 mid-way through the frame.

Lanier, though, went on an 8-0 run to close the quarter and grab a 25-14 lead at halftime.

The Maroon Tide never cut the deficit to single digits again.

“We knew we had to keep it within six to eight points to realistically have a chance,” Kennedy added. “We couldn’t come back from a big margin. But if we had made some of those shots that we missed early and not given them so many second shots, then we are only behind by six at halftime instead of 12.”

Picayune’s leading scorer and rebounder Chris Dees was hampered by foul trouble throughout the game, picking up two early fouls and getting his third during Lanier’s run to close the second quarter. He was saddled with his fourth less than two minutes into the third frame.

Mickel, in his final game with the Maroon Tide, and Dees scored 12 points apiece to pace Picayune. Mickel made his last shot on the floor count, as he drained a 3-pointer that cut the Lanier lead to 19 with two minutes to play.

“Nobody except those kids in the locker room expected us to even be here,” Kennedy concluded. “Later we’ll realize how good of a season it was, but that doesn’t stop the disappointement that we feel right now.”