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CLINTON — In a game that was billed as a fight for No. 1, Pascagoula held off a furious rally from defending 5A Champion Yazoo City to win 60-59 in front of a packed house at Rumble in the South.

The Panthers used a balanced offensive attack and a dominant third quarter to build a 49-31 lead, then made a couple of key free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.

“It’s been a staple for us all season we got different guys every night that’s going to lead us," Pascagoula coach Lorenzo Wright said. "That’s the good thing about this group Yazoo City are defending champions, so they weren’t going to quit and weren’t going to make it easy for us. If we’re going to be anything, we got to learn how to finish games.”

MORE: More Rumble in the South 2024 coverage

Pascagoula (21-1) started pulling away midway through the second quarter, when Cledarius Ross hit a three-pointer to jump start an 11-0 run that helped the Panthers to a 29-21 halftime lead.

Blake Nettles had 14 points to lead Pascagoula and was named the MVP. Chris North added 13 points, while Dorian McMillian and Markuese Grad each chipped in 10 points for the Panthers (21-1).

Yazoo City's dynamic duo of Damarion Winston and Jackson State commit Tamarion Hoover couldn't miss in the fourth quarter. Winston scored 15 of his 33 points in the the final eight minutes, and Hoover scored 10 of his 15.

The Indians (18-3) trimmed the Pascagoula lead down to 59-56 with nine seconds left, but Kelan Rush made one-of-two free throws with six seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 60-56 lead. Winston hit a three-pointer for Yazoo City with two seconds left.

“This was a game we needed," Wright said. "And we hung on and won the game, so hopefully this will prepare us for the postseason run. Any time you can get a quality win against Yazoo you’ll take it, and hopefully down the stretch we use this and we can win these types of games.”

Nettles added three rebounds, three steals, and two assists to go with his 14 points, and led a Pascagoula offense that stayed busy in the middle two quarters.

“I feel like we shot the ball really well," Nettles said. "But we've got to get better at crashing the boards and rebounding. We had bad communication at the end, and that’s how they got back in the game. We really needed this win in this environment to get ready for the big stage.”

The loss was the first for Yazoo City in nearly a month. The Indians were playing their first game in eight days after a long layoff due to winter weather.

Coach Anthony Carlyle said small breakdowns in the third and second quarter ended up haunting the Indians.

“We just couldn’t get a couple of things to go," he said. "Missed a lot of easy lay-ups and gave up some transition threes. We didn’t make them work for baskets. We gave up too many easy ones throughout the course of the game.”

Mississippi high school basketball: Pascagoula held off Yazoo City for 60-59 win to cap the 2024 Rumble in the South on January 10, 2024.
Pascagoula Panthers basketball