The Meridian Star
After a hard-fought battle against division for Northeast Lauderdale, Quitman boys basketball coach Steve Hampton expected his team to hold on for a Sam Dale championship, up 52-50 with 5.2 seconds left in the game and his team on the line.
Little did he know, the Panthers would make it interesting before finally beating the Trojans 60-56 in overtime.
With an opportunity to ice the win for his team, Quitman senior Josh Cannon missed both of his two free throws, allowing Northeast's James Roberts to rebound the ball and dash frantically up the court in a heroic effort.
Roberts grabbed the ball and sprinted up the court, dribbling past one Quitman defender before driving to the paint and laying the ball in the net just before the final buzzer sounded in regulation to tie the game at 52 and send the game into overtime.
“James Roberts made a heck of a play to tie it up,” Northeast coach Lewis Lightsey said. “We work on that in practice, and we had confidence in him. We knew he was going to make that shot, the only thing I was wondering is if he would make it in time. We have incredible kids, they just never quit.”
Quitman, however, battled back in overtime regrouping and not letting the momentum slip too far out of their favor.
“I told my team, you gave the game away, but you have four more minutes to play another game,” Hampton said. “We just had to put that in the past and move on.”
The Panthers were able rebound in overtime, jumping out to a 58-53 lead. Northeast's Henry Anderson battled back with a 3-pointer on the Trojans’ next possession to cut the lead to 58-56. However, that is as close as Northeast would get, as the Panthers held on for a 60-56 victory.
“We had a chance to win it in regulation, and we credit Northeast,” Hampton said. “They came back, and we tried to give it away again in overtime, but we came away with it. We are just proud of the way or team played.”
Freshman Darius Hicks led the Panthers on the night, taking home the MVP while totaling 14 points 11 rebounds and seven steals.
“Me being a a freshman, this is a big honor for me,” Hicks said. “I can't take the award all to myself though. My teammates played really well, without them we would not have won this game.”
Quitman improved to 10-4 on the season with the win, while Northeast dropped to 12-6 with the loss.
“We can be real good,” Hicks said. “We have a lot of team chemistry. No body has as much team chemistry as us. This was a tough game, and it will help us out a lot.”