From Staff Reports
Never give up. Play until the final buzzer. Leave it all on the court.
Every person to ever play high school basketball has heard a coach say those words. Apparently, Coach Brance Crane’s Greene County Wildcats took those words to heart.
Greene County overcame a big second half deficit Thursday at Poplarville to defeat the Moss Point Tigers 55-54 in overtime and advance to the Championship Game of the Region 8-4A Tournament. The Wildcats are set to face Pass Christian tonight back in Moss Point for a matchup that will determine which team enters the state tournament as the No. 1 from the region.
Crane’s team entered the tournament as the region’s second-seed coming out of the regular season. Moss Point was the No. 3 team entering the tournament, but had plenty of confidence entering the matchup after defeating the Cats in the team’s previous matchup on Jan. 29. That confidence was a big difference as the Tigers marched out to a 29-15 lead heading into halftime.
But, Crane’s message to his team in the locker room made an impact as Greene County closed the gap with a strong third period to set up a classic finish.
“We were able to cut it to 10 going into the fourth period, but were still down by six with just 19 seconds remaining,” Crane said. “Tylan (Blackston) a three to cut it to three with 12 seconds on the clock.”
“We got it back on a turnover. Tylan missed another three with five seconds left, but Dari (sophomore Cordarius Molten) grabbed the rebound, kicked it out to Jase (Mathews) who hit a 3-pointer to tie it at the buzzer.”
Blackston had a huge night for the Wildcats, leading the team with 25 points in the win. But, he had struggled from behind the arc all night and his big three late in the game was only his second made 3-pointer of the night, out of 13 attempts. He did his real damage driving to the basket as he made 9-of-10 field goal attempts from 2-point range.
Mathews attempted three 3-pointers in the game, but the one he made was the biggest shot of the game. He finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and an equal number of steals.
Brycen ‘B.J.’ Johnson capped off a big day in his life with a solid showing. Just a few hours after signing a national letter of intent to play college football at Holmes Community College, Johnson finished just one basket short of a double-double, totaling eight points and 10 rebounds.
Molten added eight points and seven rebounds, including the big offensive rebound that set up Mathews’ game-tying shot at the end of regulation.
The Wildcats never trailed in the overtime period and left Moss Point on Cloud 9 after the most important win of the season. They can earn an even bigger win tonight if they can pull out a win against the Pirates in the championship game.
“It was a great game and a great win for our team,” Crane said. “We are looking forward to the challenge tonight against Pass Christian.”
Game time tonight will be around 8:30 p.m. as the matchup will be the nightcap. The GCHS Lady Wildcats, who lost to Bay High on Thursday, will lead off the day’s action in Poplarville when they face the Moss Point Lady Tigers in the tournament’s consolation game.