Tide rolls; will host South State

Published 8:34 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Picayune standout Brandon Fortenberry was held to single digits in scoring over the past two games for the first time this season last week.

It took him about four minutes to change that against visiting Stone High Tuesday night.

Fortenberry came out hot, scoring 13 points in the first quarter alone, as the homestanding Maroon Tide opened the Class 4A South State playoffs with an easy 73-43 win over the Tomcats at Kelly Wise gym.

With the win, Picayune moves to 29-4 on the year and will now host the South State Tournament for just the second time in school history beginning on Thursday.

Fortenberry teamed up with Chris Dees to combine for all of Picayune’s first 20 points of the game and his three point play made the count 20-5 with two minutes to play in the first quarter.

“I told the guys that the first quarter was perhaps the most important of the game,” second year Picayune head coach Daniel Kennedy said. “We need a quick start at home. It’s important to strike first and keep the the other team from getting any momentum. Plus, a lot of time at home you put more pressure on yourself, and if you get off to a good start and make some shots it relaxes you a little.”

And Kennedy’s Maroon Tide had no trouble doing either on Tuesday night.

Fortenberry nailed a pair of trey’s and Dees added one as well along with two inside shots as Picayune raced out to a 15-5 lead minutes into the game.

The Maroon Tide’s defensive pressure was also a key, as it never allowed the Tomcats to get any type of rythmn going offensively.

In fact, at times, the defense was so stout that Stone wasn’t even able to get the ball past half-court.

After Fortenberry’s three point play made it 20-5, David McClain dropped home a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the opening stanza and Picayune led 23-10 entering the second stanza.

“It was good to see Brandon come out and have a strong start,’ Kennedy added. “Everybody seemed to feed off of each other early in the game.”

Fortenberry’s lay-up with 5:05 to play in the first half helped Picayune double up Stone at 34-17, and the Maroon Tide led 41-23 at the half.

After Stone cut the deficit to 13 early in the third period, Fortenberry guided yet another Picayune rally and his three-point play at the 4:08 mark of the third frame made the count 54-29 Picayune and the Maroon Tide never looked back.

Fortenberry tallied a game high 23 to pace Picayune, while Dees added 13, McClain added 12 and Justin Smith 11 to the winning cause.

Sammie Brown led Stone with 15 points, and the Tomcats finished the season at 15-15.

The Maroon Tide pays the final of the four first round games on Thursday, taking on McComb which beat Quitman on Tuesday at 8:30.

Northeast Lauderdale and Moss point get things rolling at 4 p.m., while Forest Hill and St. Stanislaus follow at 5:30 before Forrest County AHS meets Port Gibson at 7 followed by the Picayune-McComb game.

Thursday’s first round, just like Tuesday’s opening round, is an elimination game with the four winners moving on the the South State finals on Friday and Saturday.

The Maroon Tide hosted the South State Tournament in 2002, and went on to make it to the state championship game that season.

“It’s exciting to host it, but we have to understand that if we don’t win on Thursday it doesn’t matter because we won’t be playing on the weekend,” Kennedy added. “We can’t relax just because we are at home.”