The Coahoma County High School boys are one game away from winning their third Class 2A state championship in four years.
Potts Camp, a former division opponent, is the one team standing in the way of the Red Panthers (23-10, 9-1). The Cardinals and Red Panthers will face off in the state championship at 3 p.m. Friday at Ole Miss.
CCHS coach Derrick Moore said some of his past teams have won championships thanks to their offense. The success of the 2019-20 Red Panthers is different.
“This is one of the better defensive teams I’ve had in a long time,” Moore said. “Last year, it was more of an offensive team.”
For the Red Panthers to win, they will have to get past the Cardinals size.
“Potts Camp, they are really long,” Moore said.
CCHS earned a spot in the championship game with a 44-31 victory in the semifinals against North Forrest at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson Tuesday.
The defense once again rose to the occasion giving up just seven first-half points. CCHS gave up no field goals in the first quarter and led 4-1 at the end of the period and 14-7 at halftime.
Red Panthers senior power forward and center Keshun Holly finished with a double-double of 10 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 assist. He also had 2 slam dunks.
Senior guard Bentavious Galmore connected on five 3-pointers in the quarterfinals finishing with 19 points.
However, Galmore scored just two first half points on free throws against North Forrest. He did finish the game with 15 points thanks to one 3-pointer in the third quarter and going 6 of 6 from the free throw line in the fourth. He finished 8 for 8 from the foul line, had 7 rebounds and 1 steal.
Senior guard Markevious Holmes, who finished with 5 points, had the team’s second 3-pointer of the contest during the fourth quarter. He also had 3 steals.
Senior wing Tarkevius Logan scored all 8 of his points in the second half on four field goals to go with 4 assists, 9 rebounds and 2 steals.
Senior Trumaine Jones had 6 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals.
The Red Panthers and Lady Red Panthers are both playing in the championship games Friday. The last time both teams were in the championship was the 2016-17 season. The boys won and the girls came up short.
Three years later, Moore hopes the result is different and both of his teams come out on top.
“Two more games,” Moore said. “We’re looking to make some history around here.”
The boys and girls lost several players in the offseason, but Moore believed with work, they were capable of winning championships.
“It’s going to take a lot of work,” he said. “We lose a lot of good people, but we’ve still got a lot of good people. We’ve just got to work. We spend our summers working. We don’t take off, so we’re going to work. They know what’s at stake. They know what they’ve got to do to keep this level of competition up. We’re just going to keep working. I’m excited.”
Galmore’s five 3-pointers and 19 points propelled the Red Panthers to a 55-41 win in the quarterfinals of the state tournament against New Site at Mississippi Valley State University Thursday.
Galmore scored 13 unanswered points – all 10 of CCHS’s points in the second quarter and the first three of the third quarter – to give the Red Panthers a 22-13 advantage a little more than one minute into the second half.
“One thing I can say about him is his work ethic, it pays off,” Moore said. “He works for everything he gets, in the gym all the time. It pays off for him in the game.”
The Red Panthers and Royals both got off to slow starts as the score was 2-2 with 3:39 to play in the first quarter.
However, Logan, who finished with 17 points, scored the first 7 Red Panthers points of the game to give them a 9-2 lead going into the second quarter.
He completed a 3-point play with 2:10 remaining in the first quarter to put CCHS ahead 7-2. It was also New Site’s first foul of the game.
“Logan’s always the guy that gets us going because everybody is going to focus on him,” Moore said. “When they focus on him, Logan is basically the best one-on-one player on the team. When they focus on him, we just give the ball to 12.”
CCHS committed 10 team fouls in the first half. That meant New Site was in the double bonus and would shoot two free throws anytime the Red Panthers committed a foul for the remainder of the half.
Jones and Christopher Abby finished with four fouls each, while Logan had three.
The foul trouble was never a concern for Moore because he knew the depth he had on his roster.
“You remember in the beginning of the year we had all those injuries?” Moore said. “All those guys got a chance to play. That’s why we weren’t worried.”
While the Red Panthers never trailed, the Royals pulled to within 5 points at 30-25 with 43 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Holly scored on an offensive rebound following a Galmore miss with 0:01 to play in the third quarter to extend the lead to 32-35.
Logan connected on another 2-pointer with 7:38 to play in the game to the give CCHS a 34-25 advantage.
Then the two teams began trading 3-pointers thanks to New Site senior Walker Moreland. He connected on three 3-pointers during the fourth quarter.
Moreland’s first 3-pointer cut CCHS’s lead to 34-28 with 7:24 on the clock.
Abby responded with his first of two 3-pointers with 6:21 to play to extend the lead to 37-28.
Yet another Moreland 3 cut the Red Panthers lead to 37-31 with 6:10 to play.
Logan came back with a 3-point play with 5:53 on the clock to put the Red Panthers ahead by 9 once again at 40-31.
Moreland hit his third 3 with 5:43 to play to cut the lead to 40-34.
This time Galmore hit his fifth and final 3 of the game with 5:19 on the clock to give CCHS a 43-34 lead.
Another Logan 3-point play and Abby 3-pointer gave CCHS a double-digit lead at 51-39 with 1:56 to play in the fourth quarter.
“Twenty (Moreland) can shoot the basketball,” Moore said. “We had some guys that missed the rotation. Then we doubled down and let him. He got open.”
Holly finished with 7 points; Abby had 6; and Holmes, Jones and senior Tykeevius Taylor had 2 each.