PRC head full steam into district play against Stone County

Published 7:00 am Friday, January 13, 2017

PRC Head Coach Scott Stevens said he believes the Blue Devils can compete with any team in the district, but they still need to play with more consistency for that to happen.

PRC Head Coach Scott Stevens said he believes the Blue Devils can compete with any team in the district, but they still need to play with more consistency for that to happen.

Over the last three years, Stone’s Lady Tomcats defeated Pearl River Central eight out of nine times, all of which were close games, PRC girl’s basketball Head Coach Tony LaBella said. However, the script was switched Tuesday night as the Lady Devils (12-5; 1-0) scrapped for a 34-30 victory against the Tomcats (9-10; 0-1).

“I am very proud of how the girls finished the game,” LaBella said. “We knew it was going to be a close game like all the other ones, so walking out of here with a win is a great feeling.”

A back and forth first half ended in what LaBella said was “the biggest play of the game,” when senior captain Kayla Ryan drove down the lane and dished the ball to Lakyn Spence who hit a corner 3-pointer, giving PRC its first lead heading into halftime, 16-14. Spence ended the game with seven points.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“That shot gave us a lot of confidence for the rest of the game. It was just what we needed to boost our energy levels,” LaBella said.

That energy carried over into the third quarter as the Lady Devils went on an 8-0 run to give the team its biggest lead of the night, 24-14. However, Stone County did not relinquish its offensive prowess as the girls brought the game back to 26-25 after scoring 11 points and allowing PRC only one field goal during that time. Tomcats’ Hydia McDonald led the comeback and finished with 13 points. Teammate Laila Hill contributed with 11 points of her own.

Despite Stone’s 11-2 run, PRC’s leading scorer of the game, Brooklyn Howe, hit a difficult bank shot that propelled the Lady Devils ahead 28-25 late in the game, LaBella said.

Howe scored nine points Tuesday night. Harlee Davis scored eight points for the Lady Devils.

Pearl River Central falls short against the Tomcats, 70-65

Blue Devils A.J. Banks’ nine 3-pointers and 31 points forced Stone County (11-8; 1-0) to backpedal for the majority of the district opening game on Tuesday night. However, the Tomcats gained traction toward the end of the game, defeating PRC 70-65.

The traveling Blue Devils (6-9; 0-1) put themselves in a bind in the first quarter, starting the game down 20-8. Yet, PRC Head Coach Scott Stevens said his team’s resilience and grit got them back into the game, ending the first half down by eight, 36-28.

“This is a tough district, and I am very proud that we kept fighting, even when we were down by a significant amount. That attitude of not giving up is going to serve us well down the final stretch of the season,” Stevens said.

In the third quarter, PRC found themselves down by 13 points, the largest margin of the night, but again the Blue Devils scratched and pulled its way back to producing a chance to tie the game up.

“We just needed a couple of big shots toward the end and we could have won it. If we can keep that same tenacity we had in the second half for a whole game, we will produce some great basketball,” Stevens said.

Blue Devils Willie Reece scored eight points while Gabe Mitchell scored six points.

Tomcats senior shooting guard Landon Arnold led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds. Fellow Tomcat Enrique Whaley had an active night on Tuesday, scoring 13 points while nabbing four rebounds, two steals and dishing three assists against PRC. The Blue Devils will regroup and keep their emotions in check, Stevens said, as they travel to the familiar stomping grounds of Stevens’ formally coached team and rival, Picayune.

“We don’t need to get caught up in the extras. Let’s just play ball and worry about PRC. That message goes for me as well,” Stevens said. “It’s kind of a new experience going back, but I am going to make sure that I do whatever it takes to work for a win. We want to play our best basketball going down the stretch and that starts here.”

Also, Picayune Head Coach Kelton Thompson left PRC to coach Picayune last year.

The stage is set for a hardwood classic rivalry matchup on Friday. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.