Surprise run ends for Port Gibson, 81-67

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Port Gibson’s Terrinell Claiborne, left, battles for a loose ball with Byhalia’s Kendall Mayse in the first half Tuesday in the Class 3A State Tournament in Jackson. The Blue Waves were beaten by Byhalia, 81-67. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[3/3/04]JACKSON The biggest surprise in the state basketball tournament almost pulled the biggest surprise of the tournament.

Port Gibson, with its tournament-worst 13-23 record, played Byhalia even for 3 1/2 quarters before succumbing to a tenacious defense in an 81-67 loss in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A State Tournament.

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“We came out a little nervous, but hung around for a long time,” said Port Gibson coach Kim Windom, whose team finished third in the South State tournament to make its first-ever trip to the Mississippi Coliseum. “A lot of free throws killed us, and we usually shoot free throws better than that.”

The Blue Waves had to beat Raymond, Columbia, and Forest even to reach the tournament. Windham said early-season problems within the team led to the bad record, but a win over a defending state champion propelled the team forward.

“It was a win against Vicksburg,” Windom said of the defending Class 5A champions. “That seemed to get us going.”

On Tuesday, the Waves were going from the start.

Port Gibson raced to a 21-20 lead at the end of the first quarter, despite the hot-shooting of Byhalia’s Randall Davis.

The senior hit 6 of 7 shots to open the game and had 13 points at the end of the first quarter. Davis finished with a game-high 21 points, while teammate Brandon Davis scored 15 and Kendall Mayse finished with 11.

“I was just feeling it,” the soft-spoken Randall Davis said. “I had been in a drought lately and I wanted to come out strong. I hadn’t had a good game in a long time.”

The Indians (26-12) held a 38-35 lead at the half, but the Waves kept the game close behind Johnnie Smith’s eight second-quarter points. The reserve led the team with 18 points, while senior Jeremy Yates netted 17 and Erik Hall scored 10.

The Waves, though, quickly fell behind in the third quarter and watched as the Indians extended the lead to as many as 16 in the third quarter.

“I thought our defense really picked it up in the second half,” Byhalia coach Charles Gillespie said. “We switched from a man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone defense and I think it got them flustered.”

A Yates’ 3-pointer at the buzzer cut the lead to 62-50 at the end of the third, and the Waves went on a 9-4 run to start the fourth quarter and pull to within six points with four minutes to play. The Waves forced Byhalia into five straight turnovers, but four missed free throws and three missed shots netted zero points, and the deficit stayed at seven.

“We couldn’t quite get over that hump,” Yates said. “After that, we made some turnovers.”

Byhalia steadily pulled away, ending the Waves’ first state tournament appearance in school history.

“We made school history,” Yates said.