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PRC basketball loses at Lumberton

The Lady Blue Devils went up against the Lumberton Panthers on Jan. 8 in a game the Panthers won 48-33.

The match served as a lead up for Pearl River Central knowing a district showdown with the Picayune Maroon Tide was looming on Jan. 10.

In a perfect world the Lady Blue Devils would’ve been riding a win streak heading into district play, but PRC will have to overcome their recent losses as they prepare for Picayune.

Turnovers have been the Achilles heel for PRC this season and Head Coach Tony Labella said that large amount of turnovers led to more time on defense against Lumberton.

“The more you’re on defense the more chances you have to have breakdowns. We really like playing defense, but you don’t want to be doing it three fourths of the game,” Labella said.

A bright spot for PRC was the performance of Breyanna Bernard as she accounted for more than half of the team’s offense.

Bernard posted a double double with 18 points and 12 rebounds to go along with five steals.

Defense has been the Lady Blue Devils’ calling card for years and it’s been no different this season.

However, Labella knows his players will need to have one of their best performances of the year on the defensive end of the court against Picayune.

Labella said his assistant coach Kelsey Carroll made the point that in the past when PRC was having an off game they could make up for it on the defensive end of the court.

Even if the shots aren’t falling for the Lady Blue Devils, Labella wants to see defensive  consistency.

“We can’t let when we’re struggling on offense carry over to our defense,” Labella said. The rivalry with Picayune is a testy one and all three games the teams played last year were close.

Some of the players have experienced the rowdy crowd and added pressure before, but for some athletes Friday’s match will be their first taste of the rivalry.

Labella has been blaring music during practice sessions to mimic the atmosphere of the game, so he’s hoping the noise doesn’t affect his players.

“When the crowd is loud it’s going to have one of two effects. It’s either going to make you focus in more, or just make you play too fast,” Labella said.

Labella hopes his team also realizes the rivalry game is a district match that will have a significant impact on tournament seeding.

“There’s no doubt we have to play better than we have the past couple of games. The good thing is, this is a hard working group and they realize that,” Labella said.

For the seniors on the team it’ll be the last game against the Lady Maroon Tide at home. Those players remember the heartbreak of last season when a few key plays prevented the Lady Blue Devils from making the playoffs.

Labella said the upcoming game against Picayune will not be about revenge, but the players who experienced last year’s dramatic end will want to finish their careers with a final win against a county rival. “The girls have remembered that. They remember how much it hurt to have chances to win at the end of the last game and not do it,” Labella said. Tip off for the game between PRC and Picayune will be at 5 p.m.