Hattiesburg triumphs over PRC 49-47 to win the district championship

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, February 20, 2018

HATTIESBURG — In a game with four-lead changes, Hattiesburg executed the right defensive and offensive plays needed to defeat Pearl River Central 49-47 and win the Region 7-5A championship Friday night.

The Blue Devils (19-7) took the lead after the initial whistle.

It wasn’t until halfway through the third quarter when Hattiesburg took its first lead of the game.

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In a span of about 45 seconds, three lead changes occurred and with 4:05 left in the third quarter, AJ Banks scored two points for the Blue Devils and gave the team a 32-31 lead.

The lead for PRC turned out to be its final one as the Tigers outscored the Blue Devils 7-3 in the final 3:45 minutes of the third.

Seconds into the fourth quarter, Willie Reece was unable to complete a three-point play but with the layup, he cut PRC’s deficit to only one point with a 38-37 score.

During the next five minutes of the game, the Blue Devils were unable to convert a shot and Hattiesburg scored nine points and took a 10-point lead, the team’s biggest of the game.

Ethan Henley and Reece combined for four points and with just over a minute left in the game, PRC trailed 47-41.

After Hattiesburg’s Matias Pruitt only scored one of three free throws after being fouled, Banks scored a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left to cut the team’s deficit to four.

After the Tigers’ inbound pass, the Blue Devils quickly fouled Pruitt, which sent him to the free throw line again. Pruitt only made one of two free throws and after the missed shot, Banks scored a 3-point shot at the buzzer, which made the final score 49-47.

“We did a lot of good things but we also did some unintelligent things throughout the game and it came back to bite us at the end,” Blue Devils Head Coach Scott Stephens said. “Hattiesburg did a great job, they were well prepared and I thought we had a lot of good looks at the basket but the shots just didn’t go in.”

For the Blue Devils, Banks led with 19 points, Reece scored 17, Henley added six and Jason Long scored five.

After the first quarter, PRC held a 17-10 lead, with Reece notching eight points and Henley, Banks and Long adding three points each.

In the second quarter, the Blue Devils were held to single-digits but still held a 25-21 lead by the end of the quarter.

After the game, it was announced that PRC’s Long, Henley, Reece and Banks were selected to the All-District team and Banks won the MVP award as the best offensive player of the year.

The Blue Devils will host Natchez High School Tuesday night during the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.

“I’ll tell them that this isn’t the end, this is just a minor setback,” Stephens said about his post-game comments to the team. “We’re in the playoffs and we’re playing at home like we had planned at the beginning of the season. We have accomplished many things this year and we just have to put this game behind us and learn from it.”