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PRC basketball starts district play with a win

It was a close game between Pearl River Central’s Blue Devils and Long Beach’s Bearcats, but the Lady Blue Devils never trailed en route to a 46-34 victory over the Bearcats on Dec. 16.

Head Coach Tony Labella said the team led by 15 at one point before struggling in the fourth quarter to truly put the game away.

Heading into the fourth PRC throttled the Bearcats, only allowing them to score 16 points.

However, Long Beach exploded for 18 points in the fourth to make the game closer than Labella would’ve liked.

“We didn’t really put them away. We never were about to give up the lead, but we were never comfortable that it was put away,” Labella said.

PRC has been dealing with injuries all season, but the Blue Devils are getting healthier as Breyanna Bernard played her usual amount of minutes against Long Beach after missing court time due to an injury.

Bernard dominated the Bearcats with 17 points and seven rebounds along with a team-leading five steals.

Bernard is one of just four seniors on the squad and Labella said the seniors were integral on the court against Long Beach.

“We wanted to get a good start and didn’t want to be down early. We had really good senior leadership the two or three times when they cut it down to the lowest margin,” Labella said.

A result of seasoned players suffering from injuries means younger athletes get more time on the court.

Labella said those players have done a good job of handling their responsibilities.

The more time on the floor younger athletes rack up, the deeper the bench will become, which could be a boon for the team later in the season. “Everybody contributed something. We’re still trying to expand that rotation, but we’ve shown in the past that some of the young ones can step up,” Labella said.

Not every athlete needs to have gaudy numbers to have a positive impact on the game, so getting the younger players on the squad to understand that will benefit the Blue Devils in the future.

Next up for the Lady Blue Devils will be two games back to back on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20.

First up for PRC will be Belle Chasse, a school Labella is familiar with, having coached there prior to coming to PRC.

The following day, PRC will face Bay St. Louis before enjoying the winter break.

Neither game holds the weight of a district game, those match ups will come after Christmas.

Instead, Labella said the games serve as a way to look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses while not necessarily planning for a specific opponent.

“(There’s) not as much pressure as a district game. It’s just about us getting better and not focusing on what players we want to stop,” Labella said. Both games are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.