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PRC girls basketball ready for district games

The Lady Blue Devils basketball team got two games in before the end of the year with a victory over Forrest County 60-32 on Dec. 27 and a 49-15 loss to Presbyterian Christian on Dec. 28.

Pearl River Central was riding high on a three game winning streak heading into the weekend tournament.

Heading into the new year the Lady Blue Devils are now approaching the portion of the season where district games come thick and fast.

Beating district opponents determines a team’s seeding heading into the district tournament and PRC wants the number one seed.

The team is 1-0 in district and 10-4 overall, so Head Coach Tony Labella said there have definitely been more positives than negatives heading into the new year for his team.

“We’ve gotten good senior leadership from our four seniors. We’ve been able to fight through a ton of injuries and have done a good job of not feeling sorry for ourselves,” Labella said.

After the Friday victory over Forrest County, Labella said his team was looking to get another win, but the Bobcats had other plans as their defense led to PRC only making 15 percent of their shots. The Lady Blue Devils also struggled with free throws going 3 for 15 from the stripe.

The offensive output may have not been the best, but Labella said it was the defensive performance that was the most surprising.

“Sometimes you have off nights shooting but there’s no reason to have an off night on defense because so much of that is effort and fundamentals,” Labella said. The games in 2020 signal the start of a new season for the Lady Blue Devils as they begin facing district opponents.

PRC’s first game of 2020 will be against Lumberton on Jan. 7, but three days later is a match up that will truly test the team’s mettle.

The Picayune Maroon Tide will travel to Carriere in an important district game and Labella said the players who haven’t yet experienced the atmosphere would have to learn on the fly.

Labella knows the challenge the Maroon Tide presents, so he’s hoping his players are prepared when game time rolls around. To try and prepare the athletes for the chaos and boisterous fans, Labella is thinking of ways to replicate the game-day environment in practice.

“The ones who have not played in a game against Picayune yet, they have no idea what it’s going to be like. We’re toying with idea of playing loud music to get them used to it,” Labella said.

Labella said the team’s schedule was purposefully constructed so the level of competition increased as the season progressed.

The team relies on some young athletes contributing solid minutes, so Labella is hoping the early season experience pays off in the district match ups. “With having so many young players we couldn’t just throw them to the lions. It’s easy to say you get better playing better teams, but sometimes there isn’t that effect when you’re really young,” Labella said.

The start of the Lumberton match up is set for 5 p.m.